The government is to review the libel laws after two penniless environmental campaigners who were sued by McDonald's, the global burger chain, yesterday won a ruling at the European court of human rights that their rights to a fair trial and freedom of expression were violated when they were denied legal aid.

The libel battle pitted Helen Steel, a part-time barmaid earning £65 a week, and David Morris, a single parent on income support, against an expert legal team headed by a £2,000-a-day libel QC in a 313-day trial, the longest in English legal history.

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