McDonald’s Corporation v Steel & Morris [1997]

In this case , David Morris and Helen Steel, two environmental activists, were the targets of a lawsuit filed by the McDonald’s Corporation. The litigation itself lasted 2.5 years, but the mess as a whole went on for more than 10 years. Hence it is termed as the longest standing Libel Case in British History.


A pamphlet with the title “What’s wrong with McDonald’s? A booklet titled “Everything they don’t want you to know” was distributed as part of a Greenpeace London campaign against McDonald’s. According to the pamphlet, McDonald’s is to blame for Third World famine and child exploitation, among other things. After McDonald’s filed a lawsuit against the leaflet’s creators, three of them offered their regrets, while Morris and Steel persisted in rejecting any responsibility for the material in the pamphlets.


The judge, who presided without a jury, disregarded the allegations in the pamphlet and declared that the two had defamed the company, awarding the corporation compensatory damages. McDonald’s chose not to seek payment from the two when they refused to pay the money.

In 2004, Morris and Steel filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights accusing the UK government of violating their Article 5 rights by refusing to provide them with legal representation. The court then decided unanimously that they had not received a fair trial.


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