Undercover police triggered McDonald's libel case in Britain

June 22, 2013 at 10:26 AM

LONDON, June 22 (UPI) -- A libel case brought by McDonald's against environmental activists in Britain began with a leaflet co-written by an undercover police officer, a new book says.

McDonald's spent an estimated $15.4 million on legal fees while suing two environmental activists -- part-time bartender Helen Steel and unemployed postal worker Dave Morris -- for distributing a six-page pamphlet highly critical of the company's environmental record and the nutritional value of its food.

A new book by Rob Evans Paul Lewis, "Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police," names undercover police officer Bob Lambert -- who was posing as Bob Robinson -- as a principal author of the leaflet that was the center of the controversial 313-day trial in 1986-1987, The Guardian reported Saturday.

The trial was the longest civil trial in Britain's history, the Guardian said.

The book says Lambert had sexual relations with four women during a five-year undercover operation in which he concluded the Greenpeace group in London, which he had infiltrated, was a peaceful political group.

Belinda Harvey, one of the women with whom Lambert was involved, said he told her he "did not want people to know he had co-written it."

Lambert also fathered a son with one of the four women. Neither the woman nor the son knew until last year Lambert was an undercover officer, the book says.

The authorship of the leaflet did not come up during the trial, the newspaper said.

Authorities are investigating claims Lambert took part with animal rights activists in a bombing of a Debenhams retail store. Lambert has denied he took part in the bombing.

The Guardian said McDonald's suffered a public relations setback because of the publicity surrounding the case, and never was able to collect damages awarded by the court.

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