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Simon Singh libel case dropped

Posted in News by Skepdude on April 15, 2010

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT THE GUARDIAN

British Chiropractic Association ends legal action against science writer for comments in Guardian article

Simon Singh libel appealSimon Singh smiles outside the high court in London after winning his appeal earlier this month. Photograph: Fiona Hanson/PA

The British Chiropractic Association dropped its libel action against the science writer Simon Singh today, filing a notice of discontinuation in the high court.

The case had become a cause celebre, with scientists, celebrities and freedom of speech campaigners lining up to condemn the British libel laws and argue that Singh had a right to express his opinion in print.

The sudden end to the case will strengthen the campaign for reform of the libel laws, which Jack Straw, the justice secretary, is considering. It is also a specific pledge in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

Singh was sued by the BCA for a piece he wrote in the Guardian‘s comment pages, criticising the association for defending chiropractors who use treatments for which there is little evidence on children with conditions such as colic and asthma.

Singh and his supporters were dismayed by an early verdict by Mr Justice Eady on the meaning of the words used in the article. The judge ruled that Singh was stating facts, which he would have to prove in his defence, rather than voicing opinion and that he had implied the members of the BCA knowingly promoted what Singh called “bogus treatments”.

Singh argued that was not what he meant and went to the court of appeal. Two weeks ago, he won the point.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT THE GUARDIAN

Let’s all point and laugh at the BCA

Posted in Skepticat by Skepdude on April 15, 2010

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT SKEPTICAT

Is there no end to the bullying by the British Chiropractic Association? Not content with putting the man through two years of hell with their ridiculous libel action against him, this morning brought the news that they have now decided to deprive Dr Simon Singh of his day in court, where it was confidently expected that he would wipe the floor with them.

The very reason why Simon didn’t meekly cave in, withdraw his comments and apologise as they expected him to when they first brought the case, is because when he said,

The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

he knew it was the truth and that he could defend the claim in court. And now they aren’t going to let him. Bastards!

Those of us who were eagerly awaiting the libel trial of the decade will just have to console ourselves with the thought that, as a result of this action, the absurd claims made for this particular brand of quackery have been exposed and chiropractors the length and breadth of the land are being forced to get their houses in order and stop spouting crap on their websites and promotional leaflets. Alas, this won’t necessarily stop them lying through their teeth to people’s faces, as I discovered from personal experience.

Better yet, it has put libel reform firmly on the agenda but that’s no help to the countless victims who’ve already been forced to withdraw comments that they — like Simon — knew to be the truth but who — unlike Simon — simply didn’t have the resources to fight the bullies. And it’s no help to heroes like Dr Peter Wilmshurst who don’t have the resources but who’ve decided to fight anyway at risk of financial ruin.

For crying out loud, sign the petition for libel reform and badger the politicians. It’s high time we put an end to this nonsense.

Follow Jack of Kent for further news on this story.

Update:

What an absolutely pathetic statement that has just been released by the BCA. Mr Justice Eady, who cocked up and made the astonishingly illiberal ruling on the meaning of the words used in the article at the preliminary hearing a year ago, is described in the statement as “the UK’s most experienced defamation judge”. So who were the Court of Appeal — chopped liver? The fact that they included England’s two most senior judges, the Lord Chief Justice of England and the Master of the Rolls doesn’t get mentioned. Nor does the fact that, having been refused leave to appeal against Eady’s ruling twice, Simon was finally given leave by Lord Justice Laws — said to be one of the “savviest” High Court judges on human rights issues, who was much more emphatic about it than he needed to be.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT SKEPTICAT

Message from Simon Singh: “A big step for me, a small step for libel reform, and what you can do to help today.”

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 7, 2010

I received the following e-mail which I gladly share with you. If you havent’ already done so, please add your name on the website. You can use my own message as a template. Thank you.

Dear Friends

Sorry for the silence, but it has been a ridiculously hectic (and happy) time since last week’s victory at the Court of Appeal. However, I urgently wanted to get in touch to update you on the status of my case, the latest news on libel reform and what you can do today to push libel reform up the political agenda.

BCA v Singh

April Fool’s Day 2010 was a day to remember. The Court of Appeal gave a ruling in my libel case with the British Chiropractic Association. The ruling strongly backs my arguments and puts me in a much stronger position when my trial eventually takes place. At last, after two years of defending my article and my right to free speech, I seem to have the upper hand and can breathe a small sigh of relief.

Moreover, the judges made it clear that they did not want to see scientists and science journalists being hauled through the High Court. In particular, they endorsed the view that a so-called comment defence should be adequate for scientific and other articles on matters of public interest. As well as the legal technicalities, the three wise, charming and handsome judges quoted Milton on the persecution of Galileo and directed that the High Court should not become an “Orwellian Ministry of Truth”.

Libel Reform Campaign

This is a small step forward for libel reform, but there is still a huge battle to be fought over the issues of costs, libel tourism, public interest defence, balancing the burden of proof, restricting the ability of powerful corporations to bully individuals (e.g., bloggers, journalists, scientists) and so on.

The General Election was called yesterday and the manifestos will be published in the next week, so we need one last push to persuade the major parties to commit to libel reform. Although we have already achieved a huge amount (from editorials in all last week’s broadsheets to the Commons Select Committee recommending libel reform), we must keep up the pressure!

Both the Labour and Conservative parties have made encouraging sounds about libel reform, but now is the time for them to make commitments in their manifestos.

What you can do today to pressure politicians

I have spent over a million minutes and £100,000 defending my article and my right to free speech, so I am asking you to spend just one minute and no money at all persuading others to sign the petition for libel reform at www.libelreform.org/sign

The last time I made this request, we doubled the number of signatories from 17,000 to 35,000. Can we now double the number from almost 50,000 to 100,000?!

You could ask parents, siblings, colleagues or friends to sign up. You could email everyone in your address book. You could blog about it, mention it to your Facebook friends and twitter about it. In fact, I have pasted some possible tweets at the end of this email – it would be great if you could twitter one, some or all of them.

You could forward all or part of this email to people or just steer them to www.libelreform.org/sign . Or you could persuade people that English libel law needs radical reform by using some of the reasons listed at the end of this email.

Remember, we welcome signatories from around the world because English libel law has a damaging impact globally.

Please, please, please apply maximum pressure to the politicians by encouraging as many new signatories as possible. Please do not take my victory last week as a sign that the battle is over. My case is still ongoing and the campaign for libel reform is only just starting.

Thanks for all your support – it has been incredibly important for the campaign and a real morale booster personally over the last two years.

Simon Singh.

Ps. Please spread the word by sending out one, some or all of the following tweets

Pls RT English libel law silences debate, says UN Human Rights Committee. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & back #libelreform Pls RT English libel costs 140x more than Europe. We can’t afford to defend our words. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & back #libelreform Pls RT Two ongoing libel cases involving health. The law should not crush scientific debate. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & back #libelreform Pls RT London is notorious for attracting libel tourists who come to UK to silence critics. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & back #libelreform

PPs. Reasons why we need radical libel reform:

(a) English libel laws have been condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee.

(b) These laws gag scientists, bloggers and journalists who want to discuss matters of genuine public interest (including public health!).

(c) Our laws give rise to libel tourism, whereby the rich and the powerful (Saudi billionaires, Russian oligarchs and overseas corporations) come to London to sue writers because English libel laws are so hostile to responsible journalism. (Again, it is exactly because English libel laws have this global impact that we welcome signatories to the petition from around the world.)

(d) Vested interests can use their resources to bully and intimidate those who seek to question them. The cost of a libel trial in England is 100 times more expensive than the European average and typically runs to over £1 million.

(e) Two separate ongoing libel cases involve myself and Peter Wilmshurst, and we are both raising concerns about medical treatments. We face losing £1 million each. In future, why would anyone else raise similar concerns when our libel laws are so brutal and expensive? Our libel laws mean that serious health matters are not necessarily reported, which means that the public is put at risk.

PPPs. I know that I will leave people out of this list, but I owe a huge thanks to:

1. The 10,000 people who joined the Facebook group “For Simon Singh and Free Speech – Against the BCA Libel Claim”, particularly those who joined when the rest of the world ignored the issue of libel.

2. The 300 people who packed Penderel’s Oak in May 2009 and who helped launch the Keep Libel Out of Science campaign, particularly the speakers: Nick Cohen, Dave Gorman, Evan Harris MP, Professor Brian Cox, Chris French, Tracey Brown (Sense About Science), Robert Dougans (Bryan Cave) and David Allen Green.

3. The 20,000 people who then joined the Keep Libel Out of Science campaign.

4. Jack of Kent and every other blogger who ranted and raved about libel reform when the mainstream media was turning a blind eye.

5. Everyone in the mainstream media who is now covering the various libel cases and the issue of libel reform.

6. Sense About Science, Index on Censorship and English PEN, who formed the Coalition for Libel Reform. And thanks to everyone who has contributed pro bono to the campaign in terms of design, technical support, chivvying support for the EDM and more.

7. The 46,000 people (i.e. you) who have signed the petition for libel reform, particularly those who have cajoled others to sign up at www.libelreform.org/sign

8. All the big names who have spoken out in favour of libel reform, from Professor Richard Dawkins to Derren Brown, from the Astronomer Royal to the Poet Laureate, from the Amazing Randi to Ricky Gervais. Particular thanks go to Dara O Briain, Stephen Fry, Tim Minchin and Robin Ince, who have gone out of their way to step up to the plate when the campaign has needed them. Immense thanks also to the 100+ big names who were the first to sign the petition to keep libel out of science and highlighted the need for libel reform.

9. Everyone who has emailed and twittered and told me in person that I am not going crazy, and who reassured me that I am doing the right thing by defending my article.

10. Thanks to Nick Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems, for promising to put libel reform in his manifesto. And thanks in advance to Jack Straw (Justice Secretary) and Dominic Grieve (Shadow Justice Secretary), because I know that the Labour and Conservative parties are going to commit to libel law reform. I cannot believe that they will allow more scientists, serious journalists, bloggers, biographers, human rights activists and others to go through the same hell that I have had to endure for last two years.

The Singh Effect

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 3, 2010

I propose that the effort to silence your critics via personnal libel law suits be named the Singh Effect. The BCA tried to do that with Simon Singh and now they are experiencing the effects of the Singh Effect.

Up yours, BCA!

Posted in Skepticat by Skepdude on April 1, 2010

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT SKEPTICAT

This morning the British Chiropractic Association got what they deserved from the Court of Appeal: a judgment against them that was about as emphatic as it could be and it was delivered by England’s two most senior judges, the Lord Chief Justice of England and the Master of the Rolls, together with Lord Justice Sedley who is one of the most respected judges on the Court of Appeal.

Back in April 2008, Simon wrote a piece for the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ colunmn entitled Beware the Spinal Tap. It appeared during the BCA’s ‘Chiropractic Awareness Week’. Here’s the relevant extract:

The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

I can confidently label these treatments as bogus because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

The BCA objected to the first paragraph above, which they interpreted as an accusation of deliberate dishonesty on their part. They (still) describe it as “a serious attack on the reputation on the BCA”. Despite claiming to have a “plethora of evidence” for the claims made, they turned down the Guardian’s very reasonable offer of a right of reply and decided to sue Simon instead — a decision that the Lord Chief Justice himself said he was “baffled” by. Responding today, the BCA said they turned down the Guardian’s offer because it fell short of their expectations, “not least because the original libel would have remained uncorrected”.

But…but…surely if they had a plethora of evidence, all they needed to do was write a nice little piece pointing to it and that would have given the lie to Simon’s allegation and the BCA’s reputation would remain intact? Mais non! Apparently Simon Singh is so revered and the effect of anything he writes is so powerful that he just had to withdraw his comments and apologise — nothing less would satisfy the fragile egos in charge of the BCA. And as Simon Singh was not only right about the lack of evidence (the so-called ‘plethora’ was swiftly demolished outside the courtroom) but is also comparatively solvent, he wasn’t about to do what most people would be forced to do in such circumstances and bend right over for the BCA.

Last May, I attended the preliminary hearing of the BCA v Dr Simon Singh, held to determine the meaning of the words used in Simon’s article. There I heard Simon’s lawyers argue that the paragraph the BCA didn’t like was an opinion — a comment — rather than a statement of fact and that this was clear from the context. Mr Justice Eady dismissed this argument out of hand. He’d apparently already made up his mind and prepared his judgement before even entering the courtroom and his judgment was that the passage was a statement of fact and that the words Simon used imply a deliberate intention to deceive. Eady placed the onus on Simon to prove that the BCA were being deliberately dishonest, should the case go to full trial. In other words, the burden of proof for something he didn’t claim or intend to imply in the first place was placed on the defendant.

This was, as Jack of Kent put it, an astonishingly illiberal ruling that seemed to designed to intimidate anybody from standing up to the threat of libel even when they know they are in the right, as Simon did. The BCA said in their statement today,

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT SKEPTICAT

A good day for Simon Singh

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 1, 2010

Simon Singh wins the next battle in his war-against-cretins. Not to get confused, the war is still ongoing but he won the right to the “fair comment” defense which the previous judge had inexplicably denied him.

The science writer Simon Singh has won his court of appeal battle for the right to rely on the defence of fair comment in a libel action.

——————————–

In May last year, high court judge Mr Justice Eady, in a preliminary ruling in the dispute, held that Singh’s comments were factual assertions rather than expressions of opinion – which meant he could not use the defence of fair comment.Today, the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, master of the rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley allowed Singh’s appeal, ruling that the high court judge had “erred in his approach”.

Singh described the ruling as “brilliant” but added: “It is extraordinary this action has cost £200,000 to establish the meaning of a few words.”

200,000 pounds folks. That’s almost twice as much in US Dollars. People like me would have been bankrupt and would have had no other choice but to fold their hand, even though right. Thank goodness the folks at the BCA picked the wrong guy to mess with. Oh how I will rejoice when the day comes that Simon inevitably wins the war and the BCA will have to pay him back every penny he’s had to spend defending himself from their idiocy (I hope the UK system works that way, I don’t know for sure).

Sign the English Libel Law Petition now

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on January 27, 2010

I just signed myself and left the following message to accompany my signature:

Freedom of speech is sacred; it is an inalienable human right and the cornerstone of any democratic society. It cannot be allowed to be silenced by the rich and powerful, helped by a system which puts undue burden on the defendant. The Davids of this world ought to have the right to stand up to the Goliaths, and that is why I support this petition to reform the English libel laws, so that the little guy may not have to face financial ruin for summoning the courage to speak the truth. England has nothing to loose, and everything to gain by updating its libel laws, so that the charlatans and the self deluded may have a harder time misinforming its citizens.

The religious references were included on purpose, since most politicians seem to be religious, and I figured those words would be understood best (assuming they get to read these messages). Don’t fear, I haven’t turned religious! Please do the same and sign the petition here. Let us help  Simon Singh do the impossible and tame the beast that is English libel law.

Another Libel Suit – This Time Against Paul Offit

Posted in SkepticBlog by Skepdude on January 4, 2010

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT SKEPTICBLOG

We are still in the midst of the libel suit brought by the British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh, and now another defender of science has been targeted by such a suit. Paul Offit, Amy Wallace, and Wired Magazine have been sued for libel by Barbara Loe Fisher, the head of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC).

Here is a pdf of the complaint.

The subject of the suit is the excellent article by Amy Wallace criticizing the anti-vaccine movement. Wallace was attacked for this piece by anti-vaccinationists – essentially because she got the story correct. Wallace pointed out that the science strongly favors vaccine effectiveness and safety, and that the anti-vaccine movement is dangerously wrong – hurting the public health with their misinformation. The anti-vaccinationists were apparently very upset over be called out by a mainstream journalist. They got a lot of bad press this year, the Chicago Tribune also did a series of articles detailing the dangerous pseudoscience of the anti-vaccine movement. Wallace’s article earned her a place in the infamous baby-eating photo (along side Offit and yours truly) that only served to further embarrass the anti-vaccine movement via the blog, Age of Autism.

The law suit, in this context, seems like just the next step in the campaign against Offit and Wallace.

The NVIC, despite its innocuous name, is an ideological anti-vaccination group, and they were targeted among others in the Wallace piece. Fisher found a sentence in the article that she felt she could build a libel case around.

Fisher, who has long been the media’s go-to interview for what some in the autism arena call “parents rights,” makes him particularly nuts, as in “You just want to scream.” The reason? “She lies,” he says flatly.

“She lies” will now be the subject of as much analysis as the term “bogus” was in Singh’s article about the BCA, so I might as well start. Critics often walk a fine line – we want to accurately portray the actions and claims of the targets of our criticism, without holding any punches, but we have to be clear in our terminology and careful not to inadvertently give the wrong impression. The term “lie” is problematic. It is not necessarily inaccurate, but it can carry implications not intended by the writer, because it may imply something about what another person knows or believes.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT SKEPTICBLOG

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BCA libels Simon Singh!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 15, 2009

In a stunning turn of events the British Chiropractic Association’s press release which I wrote about a while ago, has defamatory language in which they accuse Simon of  having “maliciously attacked” the BCA, thus putting themselves in a worse position than Simon was for using the word “bogus”. The BCA is now in hot water and as Jack of Kent points out Simon can now sue them for libel! Amazing, let’s see what Simon does about this! He’s been handed a great hand by his enemies!  They have replaced the original Press Release with a modified one, but the original one lives in teh intertubes; they can’t hide it.

I told you they’re losers didnt I.

Britich Chiropractic Associaton a.k.a sore losers

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 15, 2009

The British Chiropractic Association, BCA does not like the latest judge ruling giving Simon Singh the right to actually defend himself. The HORROR! So today they sent out a pathetic press release.They whine that the judge didn’t get to hear all sides of the story. No shit Sherlock! You were given an opportunity to lay out your side on the Guardian Newspaper and instead chose to try and intimidate Simon by suing him. Now pay the consequences!

They whine that Simon wants science writers to be able to write what they want free of consequences. Wrong losers! He wants to be able to tell the TRUTH and engage in open scientific debate,  without fearing a long, expensive, punitive libel law suit such as the one you choose to engage on. Now pay the consequences!

They whine that Simon Singh did not retract his article and apologize when given the chance! Why should he o’ troubled ones? He made a claim that is factually correct. You cannot, and you have not even when you pathetically tried, to prove scientifically that your claims are true. Instead you chose to sue, trying to sweep this mess under the rug. And Simon Singh was not intimidated, he took the fight to you and now you feel the rug being swept up from underneath your feet. Now pay the consequences!
The BCA would do well to be aware of the Streisand Effect or else they run the risk of learning first hand of the Dion Effect (sobbing uncontrollably and wishing you’d taken a different course of action!)

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