[This post summarises the BCA Claim, for a summary of Simon Singh's defence see here.]
This post provides a fair and accurate report of the case which the British Chiropractic Association is bringing against Simon Singh.
This post is drawn from the actual Claim Form and Particulars of Claim filed by the BCA at the High Court, copies of which have been properly obtained from the court file under the provisions of the Civil Procedure Rules (such documents, called "statements of case" can be obtained by non-parties).
Even though this post repeats the alleged "libel", it is protected from any claim by virtue of Schedule 1 of the Defamation Act 1996. The BCA's lawyers should know this, though should they need to have the law explained to them they can of course email me at jackofkent @ gmail .com .
The news that the BCA is suing Simon Singh broke in August 2008 in the Sunday Telegraph.
The article was posted in full by Svetlana on a Russian server here.
The best summary of what is already on the web on this case is the superb Holford Watch.
It can be confirmed that the claim is for libel and not for any other legal claim (such as malicious falsehood).
For an introduction to the law of libel (or a refresher!), see my earlier post.
The BCA contend that it "has been seriously injured in its credit and reputation".
Accordingly, the BCA are seeking damages and an injunction against Simon Singh (and his agents) from publishing the alleged libel "or similar allegations defamatory" of the BCA.
The Alleged “Libel”
The BCA’s complaint is about the content of a single passage in Simon Singh’s original piece:
"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."
(Emphasis added, see below.)
The BCA's focus on this passage means that none of the rest of Simon Singh's article is defamatory and so there seems no reason that the rest of it cannot now be reproduced (subject to copyright).
It is not enough in libel proceedings to assert a passage is defamatory, a defamatory meaning for that passage needs also to be established.
The BCA's alleged defamatory meaning for the passage is as follows:
"In their natural and ordinary meaning, the defamatory words set out above meant and were understood to mean that the Claimant:
(a) claims that chiropractic is effective in helping to treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is absolutely no evidence to support its claims; and
(b) by making these claims, knowingly promotes bogus treatments."
(Again, emphasis added.)
So, in essence, when Simon Singh says that he sees "not a jot of evidence" (by which he must mean no scientifically credible evidence) for the efficacy of Chiropractic for each of these ailments, the BCA says he means "absolutely no evidence" (by which they must mean no evidence at all).
Note that this is not about "evidence" in a vacuum or for the general efficacy of Chiropractic, but evidence for the efficacy of Chiropractic for each of the following children's ailments:
2. sleeping problems
3. feeding problems
4. frequent ear infections
6. prolonged crying
What Should Be The Evidence For Such Claims?
The legal issues to be decided seem to be:
1. what (if any) are the defamatory meanings of the passage in question; and
2. in respect of each meaning, is there any defence such as "fair comment" or "factual justification".
The BCA have to show that Simon Singh said that the BCA, when making claims as to the efficacy of Chiropractic in respect of each of the six stated children's ailments, did so on inappropriate or no evidence.
If they succeed in establishing this, then Simon Singh has to show that in saying such a thing it was either fair comment or a matter of fact.
So it would thereby appear that this case (should it go to trial) will deal square-on with what would constitute the appropriate evidence that should be in place for BCA to make the claims it did regarding the efficacy of Chiropractic for each of the six children's ailments above.
This is an exciting prospect.
I will shortly set out a fair and accurate report of the next available court document, the Defence which Simon Singh filed at court in response to the above.