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Scotland Yard Settles McLibel Case

July 5, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ Scotland Yard agreed Wednesday to pay a total of $15,000 to two vegetarian activists who accused police of supplying McDonald’s Corp. with confidential information about them during a libel trial.

David Morris, 46, and Helen Steel, 34, nicknamed the McLibel Two, were each awarded $7,500 plus legal costs after their case was settled out of court without an admission of liability, Scotland Yard said.

``We regret any distress to the claimants which may have been caused by the alleged disclosure of their details,″ the police body said in a statement.

Morris and Steel sued police in 1998 after a McDonald’s security chief testified during their libel trial that he used police department contacts to obtain personal information about protesters.

Morris said that information included their home addresses.

``We feel completely vindicated,″ he said. ``We didn’t fight this case for monetary reasons. ... It was more important to expose the collaboration between big business and the police, and to force the police to alert all police officers this is an illegal practice.″

Eddie Benfilun, spokeswoman for McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd., the British division of the Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp., had no comment on the settlement, calling it ``a matter for the police.″

In December, Morris and Steel also won a a partial victory in their long-running struggle to overturn a 1997 court decision that they libeled the fast-food restaurant operator.

Three Court of Appeal judges ruled that Morris and Steel were justified in claiming regular customers of the hamburger chain face a heightened risk of heart disease. The judges also said it was fair to say McDonald’s subjected its employees to poor working conditions and paid them badly.

However, the judges agreed with the trial judge that Morris and Steel had defamed McDonald’s by claiming that its products were poisonous and increased the risk of cancer and that the company contributed to starvation and deforestation in developing countries where it buys much of its beef.

Judges reduced the amount of damages Morris and Steel were ordered to pay by a third, from $92,700 to $61,300.

The case, known widely as ``McLibel,″ lasted 314 days in court and was the longest trial in English history.

Morris, an unemployed single parent, said he and Steel, a part-time bartender, plan to appeal the December findings to the European Court of Human Rights.

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