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September 1998, the pair sued Scotland Yard for disclosing confidential information to investigators hired by McDonalds and received £10,000 and an apology for the alleged disclosure.[19] An appeal began on 12 January 1999, and lasted 23 court days, ending on 26 February.[20] The case was heard in Court 1 of the Court of Appeal in the Royal Courts of Justice. The case was adjudicated by Lord Justices Pill and May and Mr Justice Keane. The defendants represented themselves in court, assisted by 1st year law student Kalvin P. Chapman (King’s College London). McDonald’s were represented by libel lawyer Richard Rampton,[21] and a junior barrister, Timoth y Atkinson,[22] and Ms Pattie Brinley-Codd of Barlow, Lyde & Gilbert.[23] Steel and Morris filed a 63-point appeal. They had requested a time extension, but were denied. The verdict for the appeal was handed down on 31 March, in Court 1 at the Royal Courts of Justice.[24] The judges ruled that it was fair comment to say that McDonald’s employees worldwide ‘do badly in terms of pay and conditions'[25] and true that ‘if one eats enough McDonald’s food, one’s diet may well become high in fat etc., with the very real risk of heart disease.’ They further stated that this last finding ‘must have a serious effect on their trading reputation since it goes to the very business in which they are engaged. In our judgment, it must have a greater impact on the respondents’ [McDonald’s] reputation than any other of the charges that the trial judge had found to be true’.[26][full citation needed] The Court of Appeal also stated that it had ‘considerable sympathy’ with the defendants’ submissions that the leaflet meant ‘that there is a respectable (not cranky) body of medical opinion which links a junk food diet with a risk of cancer and heart disease’, that ‘this link was accepted both in literature published by McDonald’s themselves and by one or more of McDonald’s own experts and in medical publications of high repute’, and that therefore ‘that should have been an end of this part of the case’.[27][full citation needed] However they ruled against the defendants on the allegation that McDonald’s food was a carcinogen.[28][full citation needed] As a result of their further findings against the Corporation, the three Lord Justices reduced Mr Justice Bell’s award of £60,000 damages to McDonald’s by £20,000. The court ruled against the argument by Steel and Morris that multinational corporations should no longer be able to sue for libel over public interest issues; they believed ‘that may be seen as an argument of some substance’, but ultimately rejected it, on grounds that it was a matter for Parliament.[29][full citation needed] Steel and Morris announced their intention to appeal over these and other points to the House of Lords, and then take the UK Government to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. In response to the verdict, David Pannick QC said in The Times: “The McLibel case has achieved what many lawyers thought impossible: to lower further the reputation of our law in the minds of all right thinking people.”[30] Steel and Morris appealed to the Law Lords, arguing that their right to legal aid had been unjustly denied. When the Law Lords refused to accept the case, the pair formally retained solicitor Mark Stephens[31] and barrister (now Director of Public Prosecutions (England and Wales)), Keir Starmer QC to file a case with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), contesting the UK government’s policy that legal aid was not available in libel cases, and setting out a highly detailed case for what they believed to be the oppressive and unfair nature of UK libel laws in general, and in their case in particular.[32] In September 2004, this action was heard by the ECHR. Lawyers for Steel and Morris argued that the lack of legal aid had breached the pair’s right to freedom of expression and to a fair trial. European Court of Human Rights An anti-McDonald’s leafletting campaign in front of the McDonald’s restaurant in Leicester Square, London, during the European Social Forum season, 2004-10-16. On 15 February 2005, the ECHR ruled that the original case had breached Article 6 (right to a fair trial) and Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights and ordered that the UK government pay Steel and Morris £57,000 in compensation. This ruling does not reflect the merits of their case against McDonald’s, as it speaks only to the issues of government provision of services to those in need of legal aid. In their ruling, the ECHR criticised the way in which UK laws had failed to protect the public right to criticise corporations whose business practices affect people’s lives and the environment (which violates Article 10); they also ruled that the trial was biased because of the defendants’ comparative lack of resources and what they believed were complex and oppressive UK libel laws.

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