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McLibel Case of Morris and Steel vs McDonalds Report

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Updated: Sep 10th, 2022

The fundamental problems with the manner in which the case was put forward by McDonalds

After McDonalds thought they had somehow succeeded in coercing the London Greenpeace five to withdraw and apologize for their insinuations about the company, Dave Morris and Helen Steel were left unperturbed. Dave Morris and Helen Steel saw no sense to be victimized and resolved to fight an overarching multinational with a record of winning all cases it institutes against all dissenting voices (McLibel Trial Organization, 2009).

The way McDonalds narrowed down to only five members of the Greenpeace group is highly controversial. One wonders how a bigger and reputable organization of such status could lower itself to use spies in order to target individuals who had a due course to pursue. First, this move contravened the privacy act of the United Kingdom’s laws. The multinational went a step further to hire two investigative firms to introspect into a single issue concurrently. It can be argued that this would have made the participating investigators to take their eyes off the target and investigate one another. Some experts in law see this move as a counterproductive one.

There were instances which the investigators befriended some of the Greenpeace members to an extent of having relationship. This as well might have hampered their work as evidenced during the court proceedings. One of the investigators, Michelle Hooker, had an half a year relationship with one of the lobbyist. Some of the investigators went as far as breaking into the group’s offices and other malicious acts.

After McDonalds failed to silence the two, it sued them for libel and wanted reparation as part of the settlement. However Morris and Steel, with no legal battle experience set out to fight to the end. The two received financial backing from within the group as well as other well wishers.

In my opinion the McLibel case is a spectacular example to the extents which the world’s multinationals act with impunity. These multinationals seem even larger than life. They do not recognize foreign governments’ laws and regulations leave alone the parent country. International corporate laws are also weak to such an extent that settlements arrived at may not be binding to all parties especially if they originate from different countries.

The McLibel’s case is just an example of how multinationals are perpetrators of expansionist ideals. They go about their businesses in total disregard of human rights. For instance, it is an undisputable fact that consumption of junk food eventually lead to health complications like obesity and hypertension among others. What McDonald did was to circumvent the laws by filing constitutional cases and raising as many objections as possible. It went to extreme ends by coercing members of the Greenpeace group to agree to an out of court arrangement.

It would also be argued that McDonalds use the financial muscle it has to meet its ends, means notwithstanding. By using false advertising particularly touching on children was an inconsiderate move. But instead of retracting such stances, it replies with empty rhetoric and real threats to whoever is raising an alarm. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the ills which multinationals operate.

A critically evaluation

However, in the United Kingdom, there is no provision for legal services on defamation suits. What the defendants only got was just two hours of complimentary legal guidance. This particular advice was surmised to a single premise that in legal trial touching on defamation was intricate and usually ends up in favor of the claimant. It was also determined that the two would incur colossal legal fees. It was also viewed that the McDonalds had the most formidable legal lineup consisting of top lawyers as well as getting advice from libel consulting experts. It was further argued that the case would not even go through the legal complications to qualify for a complete trial.

Consequently, Keir Starmer, an advocate by then offered his services for the two. Before a trial could be commissioned, there are multiple precluding examinations and processes which ought to be comprehensively covered. The two defendants had to be put in order their argument. This basically had a well thought out and evidential reply to McDonalds’s proclamation paper it had filed. After that, they would be taken through a number of ‘Further and Better Particulars of Justification and Fair Comment’ practices.

When the initial case was ruled in favor of McDonalds, Morris and Steel went a step further and sued the government of the United Kingdom at the European Court of Human Rights. The main aim by this time was to force the government to grant rights to free legal aid on libel cases or otherwise to amend the statutes governing the same.

On the other hand, McDonalds had done all it could to see that the two did not succeed in any way. First, its legal team declined to release all the pertinent papers it had. McDonald’s lawyer further claimed that the defendants’ arguments were pathetic such that the two were in no position to bring into being any sort of proof as they had claimed. This led to the thinking that is if the situation was so, then the majority of the claims could be scrapped thereby not necessitating McDonald’s submission of the said papers. The adjudicator, by breaking the precedents, then borrowed this argument and gave the defendants some time to hand over accounts by witnesses.

It became even more interesting when the defendants produced 75 proclamations from the witnesses to the case. To counter this move, the McDonalds introduced to its now fledging legal panel a revered trial attorney, Richard Rampton, albeit with a sizable fee paid to him per day among other payments.

Rampton then demonstrated the heavy perks he got paid by submitting an application suggesting that the trial be presided over only by one judge and postulated that empirical corroboration was indispensable in exploring the links connecting diet and ailments. This, he said, were beyond the comprehension of a lay man. On the contrary, both Morris and Steel were neither trained nutritionist nor doctors by any measure.

Similarly, a judgement was passed in support of McDonald. This was borrowed from the fact that average for members of the public would be in no position to adjudicate matters of such magnitude and therefore the case would be handled by one judge instead of a jury. It was further alleged that the jury would even wonder why there was any case in the first place.

McDonald further applied for an injunction barring some of the defending statement by witnesses claiming that they did not meet requirements while others were vague or unsuitable. The judge decided to leave out the whole of rainforest segment and other claims touching on overseas Trade Union rows.

It is therefore justified to say that in as much as Morris and Steel tried; it was a tall order for them to put up a good case against the McDonalds. Without any sound legal and financial backing they had absolutely no chance. McDonalds, on the other hand, had all the requirements for a successful court battles starting from the legal panel to the financial might.

An evaluation of the final verdict of the European Court of Law and recommendations

The final verdict of this long case was taken to the European court because there raised a controversy in the British court therefore the European court was to have the final say. The court ruled that the British laws have a suppressive nature of denying citizens right of expressing themselves. It showed that citizens don’t have a right to criticize company malpractices that harm people. McDonald had several unethical issues that they were involved with but when they were challenged they ended up suing people and complaining that they were being defamed (Ritzer, 2004, pp. 75).

Citizens have a right to express themselves in whichever way they can as long as it is not incitement or against the law. The campaign done against unhealthy food and unfavourable working terms in McDonald was a legal thing to do since it was the truth. Selling unhealthy food especially to children is an act of exploitation since the main objective of the organization is to maximize profits. Any company or firm that produces food products should make sure that the food is fit for human consumption and not just being after money making (Armstrong, 2006, pp. 52).

.It would be recommended that an injunction would be ruled towards the McDonalds that they should stop misleading advertising and improve the quality of the foods that they sell, improve the wages and conditions of the workers and to stop ill treating the animals. The undermined when they air their grievances.

The favourite part of the film “McLibel: Two people who refused to say they were sorry”

In this movie, there were five activists who were identified by McDonald’s spies. Each of them was given a desolate choice of either apologizing for the allegations made in the leaflet or be taken to court. Among the five activists, three of them apologised but two of them refused to do so. The three activists apologised because they didn’t have money, had no information regarding the legal system, and there were minimal chances of defeating McDonald. The other two that is Morris and Steel refused to apologise in the claim that they were being bullied. According to the information given by steel, McDonald and his team were supposed to apologise to people instead of them doing so. He claims that they have caused a lot of harm to the society, and that is why they should apologise to the society (Hardling, 2007, pp. 57).

This part is the most favourite in the film. They spent over three years in court and experienced overwhelming chances which changed their lives. They were refuted from legal assistance and a right to fair trial. In the film, Morris managed to bring up his son outside the court room while on the other hand Steel was supporting herself with the cash that she was paid in a bar at night. As they were struggling in court McDonald was using every trick against them. He had put aside skilled and expensive experts, company executives and board committees who will testify against Morris and Steel (Ritzer, 2009, pp. 101).

Having no cash, witnesses and inadequate experience in the legal system, Morris and Steel found a team of supporters who surrounded them and became their witnesses. The most interesting part is the numbers of the witnesses, especially those who knew more about McDonald for example, McDonald’s workers, McSpies and a former actor and all were willing to testify against the plaintiff (Gillespie, 2007, pp. 271). In this film, the case seems to be so critical in that it was the first time that a multinational company practises were put in the eyes of the public scrutiny (Top Documentary Film, 2008).

References

Armstrong, F., 2006. The true story of two people who refused to say Mcsorry. Michigan: Revelation publishers, pp. 45- 60.

Gillespie, A., 2007. The English legal system. London; Oxford University Press, pp. 87-93.

Hardling, C., 2008. Human Rights in the Market Place: The Exploitation of Rights Protection by Economic Actors. Markets and the law. Ashgate Publishing, pp. 54-61.

McLibel Trial Organization, (2009). Web.

Ritzer, G., 2009. McDonaldization: The Reader. 3rd ed. London: Pine Forge Press, pp. 92-107.

Ritzer, G., 2004. The McDonaldization of society. 4th Ed. London: Pine Forge Press, pp. 72-79.

Top Documentary Film, 2008. McLibel. Web.

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