The so-called McLibel trial was a libel action brought by McDonalds against two virtually penniless anti-corporate activists. Because the British legal system does not give public Legal Aid in defamation cases, Steel and Morris represented themselves in the trial, the longest civil trial in British history. The fast food giant, meanwhile, brought in a crack team of highly-paid lawyers. Not surprisingly, they won.
The ECHR reversed the outcome of the British courts’ decision on the grounds that the British trial was manifestly unfair and therefore constituted a violation of the activists’ rights to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial.
Bloggers should welcome this result. One of the effects of this case is that small publishers in Europe &mdash bloggers, inter alia — will have a better chance of defending themselves in defamation cases brought against them by far richer opposition.