McLibel leaflet co-written by undercover police officer Bob Lambert

Tony Gosling tony at
Sat Jun 22 20:39:59 BST 2013

Many of us knew Dave and Helen well
- makes me wonder if TLIO was ever targeted by the same Stasi tactics?

McLibel leaflet was co-written by undercover police officer Bob Lambert
Exclusive: McDonald's sued green activists in 
long-running David v Goliath legal battle, but police role only now exposed
Paul Lewis and Rob Evans - The Guardian, Friday 21 June 2013 14.54 BST
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Bob Lambert posed as a radical activist named Bob Robinson.

An undercover police officer posing for years as 
an environmental activist co-wrote a libellous 
leaflet that was highly critical of McDonald's, 
and which led to the longest civil trial in 
English history, costing the fast-food chain millions of pounds in fees.

The true identity of one of the authors of the 
"McLibel leaflet" is Bob Lambert, a police 
officer who used the alias Bob Robinson in his 
five years infiltrating the London Greenpeace 
group, is revealed in a new book about undercover 
policing of protest, published next week.

McDonald's famously sued green campaigners over 
the roughly typed leaflet, in a landmark 
three-year high court case, that was widely 
believed to have been a public relations disaster 
for the corporation. Ultimately the company won a 
libel battle in which it spent millions on lawyers.

Lambert was deployed by the special demonstration 
squad (SDS) – a top-secret Metropolitan police 
unit that targeted political activists between 
1968 until 2008, when it was disbanded. He 
co-wrote the defamatory six-page leaflet in 1986 
– and his role in its production has been the 
subject of an internal Scotland Yard investigation for several months.

At no stage during the civil legal proceedings 
brought by McDonald's in the 1990s was it 
disclosed that a police infiltrator helped author the leaflet.

  The McLibel two: Helen Steel and David Morris, 
outside a branch of McDonald's in London in 2005 
after winning their case in the European court of 
human rights. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

A spokesman for the Met said the force 
"recognises the seriousness of the allegations of 
inappropriate behaviour and practices involving 
past undercover deployments". He added that a 
number of allegations surrounding the undercover 
officers were currently being investigated by a 
team overseen by the chief constable of Derbyshire police, Mick Creedon.

And in remarks that come closest to acknowledging 
the scale of the scandal surrounding police 
spies, the spokesman said: "At some point it will 
fall upon this generation of police leaders to 
account for the activities of our predecessors, 
but for the moment we must focus on getting to the truth."

Lambert declined to comment about his role in the 
production of the McLibel leaflet. However, he 
previously offered a general apology for 
deceiving "law abiding members of London 
Greenpeace", which he said was a peaceful campaign group.

Lambert, who rose through the ranks to become a 
spymaster in the SDS, is also under investigation 
for sexual relationships he had with four women 
while undercover, one of whom he fathered a child 
with before vanishing from their lives. The woman 
and her son only discovered that Lambert was a police spy last year.

The internal police inquiry is also investigating 
claims raised in parliament that Lambert ignited 
an incendiary device at a branch of Debenhams 
when infiltrating animal rights campaigners. The 
incident occurred in 1987 and the explosion 
inflicted £300,000 worth of damage to the branch 
in Harrow, north London. Lambert has previously 
strongly denied he planted the incendiary device in the Debenhams store.

  While McDonald's won the initial legal battle, 
at great expense, it was seen as a PR disaster. 
Photograph: Image Broker/Rex Features

Lambert's role in helping compose the McLibel 
leaflet is revealed in 'Undercover: The True 
Story of Britain's Secret Police', which is 
published next week. An extract from the book 
will be published in the Guardian Weekend 
magazine. A joint Guardian/Channel 4 
investigation into undercover policing will be 
broadcast on Dispatches on Monday evening.

Lambert was one of two SDS officers who 
infiltrated London Greenpeace; the second, John 
Dines, had a two-year relationship with Helen 
Steel, who later became the co-defendant in the 
McLibel case. The book reveals how Steel became 
the focus of police surveillance operations. She 
had a sexual relationship with Dines, before he 
also disappeared without a trace.

Dines gained access to the confidential legal 
advice given to Steel and her co-defendant that 
was written by Keir Starmer, then a barrister 
known for championing radical causes. The lawyer 
was advising the activists on how to defend 
themselves against McDonald's. He is now the 
director of public prosecutions in England and Wales.

Lambert was lauded by colleagues in the covert 
unit for his skilful infiltration of animal 
rights campaigners and environmentalists in the 
1980s. He succeeded in transforming himself from 
a special branch detective into a long-haired 
radical activist who worked as a cash-in-hand 
gardener. He became a prominent member of London 
Greenpeace, around the time it began campaigning 
against McDonald's in 1985. The leaflet he helped 
write made wide-ranging criticisms of the 
company, accusing it of destroying the 
environment, exploiting workers and selling junk food.

Four sources who were either close to Lambert at 
the time, or involved in the production of the 
leaflet, have confirmed his role in composing the 
libellous text. Lambert confided in one of his 
girlfriends from the era, although he appeared 
keen to keep his participation hidden. "He did 
not want people to know he had co-written it," Belinda Harvey said.

Paul Gravett, a London Greenpeace campaigner, 
said the spy was one of a small group of around 
five activists who drew up the leaflet over 
several months. Another close friend from the 
time recalls Lambert was really proud of the 
leaflet. "It was like his baby, he carried it 
around with him," the friend said.

When Lambert's undercover deployment ended in 
1989, he vanished, claiming that he had to flee 
abroad because he was being pursued by special 
branch. None of his friends or girlfriends 
suspected that special branch was his employer.

It was only later that the leaflet Lambert helped 
to produce became the centre of the huge trial. 
Even though the activists could only afford to 
distribute a few hundred copies of the leaflet, 
McDonald's decided to throw all of its legal 
might at the case, suing two London Greenpeace activists for libel.

Two campaigners – Steel, who was then a part-time 
bartender, and an unemployed postal worker, Dave 
Morris – unexpectedly stood their ground and refused to apologise.

  Steel and Morris outside the high court at the 
start of the first proceedings in the McLibel 
trial in 1990. Photograph: Photofusion/UIG/ Getty Images

Over 313 days in the high court, the pair 
defended themselves, with pro bono assistance 
from Starmer, as they could not afford to hire 
any solicitors or barristers. In contrast, 
McDonald's hired some of the best legal minds at 
an estimated cost of £10m. During the trial, 
legal argument largely ignored the question of 
who wrote the McLibel leaflet, focusing instead 
on its distribution to members of the public.

In 1997, a high court judge ruled that much of 
the leaflet was libellous and ordered the two 
activists to pay McDonald's £60,000 in damages. 
This sum was reduced on appeal to £40,000 – but 
McDonald's never enforced payment.

It was a hollow victory for the company; the 
long-running trial had exposed damaging stories 
about its business and the quality of the food it 
was selling to millions of customers around the 
world. The legal action, taking advantage of 
Britain's much-criticised libel laws, was seen as 
a heavy handed and intimidating way of crushing 
criticism. However, the role of undercover police 
in the story remained, until now, largely unknown.

On Friday, Morris said the campaign against the 
burger chain was successful "despite the odds 
overwhelmingly stacked against us in the legal 
system and up against McDonald's massive and 
relentless advertising and propaganda machine.

"We now know that other shadowy forces were also 
trying to undermine our efforts in the most 
disgusting, but ultimately futile ways. All over 
the world police and secret agents infiltrate 
opposition movements in order to protect the rich 
and powerful but as we have seen in so many 
countries recently people power and the pursuit 
of truth and justice is unstoppable, even faced 
with the most repressive and unacceptable Stasi-like tactics." 
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