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Friday, 8 May 2009

BCA v Singh: An Astonishingly Illiberal Ruling

This post has been superceded - now see Offical Text of Ruling.

Yesterday the English High Court made an astonishing and highly illiberal ruling in the libel case brought by the British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh.

The ruling was by Sir David Eady, the presiding judge. He has decided the "meaning" which should be given to the passage complained of in Simon Singh's original article.

The passage is:

"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."

As part of libel litigation, the court does have to rule as to the meaning of the relevant passages. This ruling in turn provides which are the appropriate defences. If it is ruled that the passage was "comment" then the defendant has to prove that it was a "fair comment". If the passage was a statement of fact, then the defendant has "justify" the fact.

Yesterday Singh's lawyers argued that the passage was a comment and the BCA's lawyers argued it was a statement of fact. Interestingly, the BCA did not contend in their oral argument that the passage was a statement about their dishonesty but really their recklessness and irresponsibility in promoting such treatments. Both parties also put in written submissions which were before the judge.

I was in court. The judge did not take a single note during the oral submissions of the BCA, and he hardly took a note during Singh's submissions. The reason for this soon became painfully clear. He had already prepared his ruling before even hearing the oral arguments.

When the initial oral submissions concluded, Eady did not (as was widely expected) reserve the decision until a later date. He instead began to read out his prepared judgment. This was before noon on the preliminary hearing's first day; the hearing was effectively over by lunchtime.

The judge ruled that, notwithstanding that the passage in Singh's article was a comment piece and published on the comment page, it was a statement of fact. This was an unhelpful ruling, and my heart sank for a moment, but it was not one for which Singh was unprepared. Singh would have preferred to have had a comment ruling, but he did have a full justification defence too, see here. So not ideal, but not a disaster.

But the judge continued. The word "bogus" meant deliberate and targeted dishonesty. So it did not mean that chiropractic for the six named children's ailments (including asthma) was simply wrong, or that it was contrary to established medical practice or research, or even that it completely lacked evidence.

"Bogus" meant a lot more. The judge held that by the mere use of the word "bogus" Simon Singh was stating that, as a matter of fact, the BCA were being consciously dishonest in promoting chiropractic for those children's ailments.

This shock ruling went far further than what the BCA had asked for in their oral submission (though it may have been in their written submission).

This ruling also did not even refer to the fact that Singh's use of the word "bogus" is actually set out in the following paragraph of the following paragraph in the original article:

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 judge's omission here was notwithstanding Singh's lawyer had strongly emphasised it in oral submission. Indeed, on the basis of the pre-prepared ruling which the judge read out, there is no direct evidence that the judge had actually read this following paragraph.

Where does this now place this litigation?

The ruling means that, as it stands, Simon Singh would have to prove at full trial that the BCA were being deliberately dishonest. This is not only extremely difficult but it was undoubtedly not Simon Singh's view in the first place. The BCA, as with many CAM practitioners, may well be deluded, irresponsible, and sometimes rather dangerous; but calling their promoted treatments "bogus" was not an express statement of their conscious dishonesty.

Indeed, unless there is hard evidence of dishonesty, it may not even be professionally possible for Simon Singh's lawyers to put the required case to the court: English barristers and solicitors are prohibited from alleging fraud unless there is sound and cogent evidence before them on which to base the allegation.

Basically, it would be very unwise and perhaps impossible for Simon Singh to go to full trial with this ruling on meaning.

One option is for Simon Singh to appeal. He has to decide this within three weeks. That said, the English Court of Appeal is usually unlikely to overturn a first instance decision on meaning: it is the sort of point on which English higher courts will defer. However, he would need to exhaust domestic processes before he can refer the case to the European Court of Human Rights as breach of Article 10 (freedom of expression).

Another possibility is settlement, and there would surely be no shame in settling because of this bizarre and illiberal ruling on meaning.

And is English libel law a form of bogus justice? I could not possibly say...

57 comments:

paulathomas said...

I looked up 'bogus' in Chambers this morning it defines 'bogus' as 'counterfeit, spurious, bad, or disappointing'. I cannot find deliberately false in the definition.

Extraordinary!

Ben Murphy said...

On reading this, I turned immediately to the OED to find out what I could about the word bogus. A bogus is a device for producing counterfeit coins, and hence a bogus coin, i.e. a coin produced by a bogus, is counterfeit. In this case, false scientific claims are the equivalent of counterfeit coins. Their circulation threatens to devalue real currency. Of course, once a bogus coin is in circulation, it can be passed on by people who have no intent to deceive - not everyone is capable of spotting a counterfeit indeed, the ability to tell real science from pseudo-science falls within Simon Singh's area of expertise.

I realize, of course, that now the judge has made his ruling, this is a mere academic exercise. As you say, there is no shame in Simon Singh issuing a statement at this point.

Warhelmet said...

What about Irving v. Lipstadt?

Mr Lizard said...

Thanks for this analysis Jack. No doubt settlement looks like a viable option from a legal perspective, but one fears for the impact this will have on the general struggle against practitioners of CAM. The BCA would treat it is not only a legal victory but a validation of chiropractic.

And where would that leave anyone else who dares to question the efficacy of CAM?

I hope there is something we can do to support/help Simon Singh.

Anonymous said...

Jack - Eady J has some "previous" on the meaning of the word "bogus" - see Paul McKenna v MGN Ltd [2006] EWHC 1996 (QB), where McKenna succeeded in a claim about the use of the word "bogus" by Victor Lewis Smith to describe McKenna's qualifications.

Haven't read the transcript yet (just about to), and no doubt Simon's defence team will be on the case, but I thought I should flag it up.

Edd said...

So, is there anything we can usefully do? I imagine this case is going to go as it will regardless of any letter-writers at home, but what about protecting future criticism of ineffective treatments? Anything we can usefully push for?

Anonymous said...

As a 'CAM' practitoner myself I fully support Simon Singh in this case, I work in palliative care and only advocate treatments which have sound research to back their efficacy. I think practitioners making claims to 'cure' only harm the work being done by genuine CAM practitioners and hinder us in our aim to become accepted by the 'conventional' medical profession as a whole.

HolfordWatch said...

JoK wrote: "If it is ruled that the passage was "comment" then the defendant has to prove that it was a "fair comment". If the passage was a statement of fact, then the defendant has "justify" the fact".

Are there clear guidelines on when something is comment v. fact and is a statement on a blog that it should be interpreted as commentary insufficient if one does actually delve off into fact (e.g., there has never been any thimerosal/thiomersal in the MMR vaccine)?

JoK wrote: "The word "bogus" meant deliberate and targeted dishonesty. So it did not mean that chiropractic for the six named children's ailments (including asthma) was simply wrong, or that it was contrary to established medical practice or research, or even that it completely lacked evidence".

Again, had Singh omitted the word "bogus" and written something akin to, "At a time when there is increasing interest in science-based medicine, it is disappointing that the professional body for particular CAM organisations do not take a stronger line in publicising the current state of the art for clinical evidence for the efficacy of some interventions" - would that have been more acceptable, albeit over-wordy to the point of being obscure?

Derrik said...

Thanks for this

HJ said...

That would be interesting if the Judge were a wooster, it has a resonance with the spectrial of the pirate bay guys, turns out the judge there was a rabid anti-piracy member. I hope bias is the solution here, so much easier than wrong-headed.

Dr Aust said...

Yes. It rather fries the neurones to think that the outcome of this hearing could have hinged on the use of a particular word like "bogus", as opposed to any one of the numerous alternatives Singh might have used, such as "daft","unbelievable", "discredited" "ridiculous" "wholly implausible" or "laughable".

Sir David, from my reading of his bios and profiles on the Web, is very hot on the principle of reaching the judgement on the facts of the particular case before him, emphasizing this when his detractors in Fleet St have accused him of trying to construct a privacy law via successive judgements in high-profile privacy cases. At least, this seems to be the tenor of what he is reported to have said.Under the circumstances what seems odd to me is that so much should be taken to hinge on the "bogus" statement - or even word - and its assumed meaning when, as Jack notes above, Singh's following paragraph sets out clearly and in some detail precisely why he considers the BCA's claims to be describable in such terms.

In the preliminary hearing in the Rath vs. Goldacre case before Eady, Ben G's lawyers argued successfully - again, as I read it, NB IANAL so take with pinch of salt - that the whole article had to be used to give context to, and thus clarify the meaning of, contentious statements made in that particular article.

The judgement in this case, from the same learned judge, seems to be saying precisely the opposite. Curious. Perhaps a lawyer can explain it to me... Or are we to take it that certain "red flag" words are construed by the law of libel to have no contextual nuances whatsoever in their received meaning?

Pip said...

Re anonymous: Paul McKenna v MGN Ltd [2006] EWHC 1996 (QB)

Sir Justice Eady may well have drawn upon common law (as established by, oh thats right, Sir Justice Eady), to rule on the meaning of the word 'bogus' in the case of BCA vs. Singh.

Which doesn't mean bias, but it does seem a bit self referential.

And thus enshrining this meaning of the word 'bogus' for evermore in common law, stare desisis.

truthspeaker said...

Judge Eady is clearly a moron, unless something else is going. Since this blog appears to be hosted in the UK and subject to UK libel laws, I will not speculate here about the "something else".

Tony Lloyd said...

I do hope that Simon Singh will not settle and will appeal. I'm sure there are a lot like me who would donate a modest amount to a fighting fund to cover Singh's costs. I must emphasise modest, but if there are an immodest number of donors....

Another thought crosses my strange and skeptical mind. Is it possible that the judge had not only decided on the meaning but the verdict? Is it conceivable that the judge has put that meaning on "bogus" because he fully intends to find at full trial that the BCA were deliberately deceitful?

Kate said...

There's been plenty of comment in the Eye about Eady's lack of balance in decisions on libel cases. Part of the reason why the UK is becoming the global centre for libel tourism.

caebrwyn said...

In our experience Justice Eady was not fond of the 'fair comment' defence, erring on the side of the claimant over meaning, which was impossible to defend and not worth a shot if you are without specialist lawyers. I hope Mr Singh appeals this decision and wins.

A. Macrae said...

Do I understand this proicess correctly?

Person A says something about person B.
Person C (A person wearing a doormat on his head) then decides what person A meant- and on the basis of C's opinion of A's meaning, a trial will be decided?

That's dimmer than a sheepshit candle.

Martin said...

This has left me deeply shocked, and will cause me to ask myself a lot of questions about how I approach the writing I'm doing now for Layscience and LibCon.

I have a practical question though. I'm no business or legal expert, so this might sound hopelessly naive, but is there any way of evading British libel laws (or at least mitigating their effects) by e.g. setting up a blog as a business registered abroad?

Dan said...

Can't Simon just state that he used "bogus" in a way that does not mirror the meaning that the judge thinks it has?

srk said...

This is all nonsense. Hell, It's truly bogus. Why is it that Simon needs to prove his innocence, rather than the Chiropractic Association, who brought the charges, prove guilt? The Association is putting forth snake oil without scientific proof and attempting to ruin someone of integrity questioning this "truth". If the Chiropractic Association has scientific studies to back its claim, that would suffice. Apparently it does not, so it is resorting to attacking someone who merely questions the validity of certain statements as dogma. What century is this????

chris.x.jackson said...

Simon, don't get rattled, stay cool. The law will be petty and trifle over squibbles, but we know what the real intent is in spirit so regardless of the outcome the attention to the case is most welcome. Because, after all, some chiropractic claims are indeed bogus. You can't blame them, they have to pay for their education you know? Stay strong Simon, the victory may not be won in the courtroom. It can be won in the hearts of mankind. Best wishes. -Chris Jackson

Chris Kavanagh said...

I think the tag 'crap libel cases' sums this judgement up nicely. This will also undoubtedly be presented in the future as a 'victory' for chiropractic medicine despite the fact that the judgement had nothing to do with the validity of chiropractic treatments. Hopefully Simon appeals and the appeals have more sensible outcomes.

Thanks to Jack for the clear explanations here and on the day!

Anonymous said...

Perverse decision based upon an incorrect interpretation / understanding of modern (ie current usage) language of the word bogus.

Still it strikes me that if it is possible to show that the evidence is against chiropady rather than for it, then "professionals" within the "discipline" should be aware of that fact and thus any promotion for non supported (ie all) uses are indeed willful/concious.
It sets the bar higher but is ignorance of facts really a defence?

Sticks said...

By the look of things I am afraid the only option is to throw in the towel.

Simon will have to offer a full apology and retraction and pay costs of the BCA.

Face it the BCA have won, game set and match.

An appeal as stated will not likely succeed as they will not go against this judgement and will only rack up more costs for Simon.

That seems to be the law

Sorry

Kevin said...

Can Singh not prove in court that the Chiropractic treatments for the claims treatments don't work ? would that not prove his case? There is research to be referred to I thought, and I don't think BCA could plead ignorance to these results.

Anonymous said...

The definition of the word "bogus" is not the problem here. The problem is whether that word applies to the chiropractic treatment or the chiropractor himself.

Simon Singh clearly used it in reference to chiropractic treatment as his following paragraph demonstates. However, the judge has decided that he used it in reference to Chiropractors.

Bizarre!

If I understand correctly, Simon Singh can appeal on this basis but, going on precedent, an appeal on this basis is extremely unlikely to be successful. If this is the case he has no choice but to settle.

Double bizarre!

regards,
BillyJoe

Anonymous said...

The "London Greenpeace" trial against McDonald's comes to mind - is there anything that could help there?

chrisf said...

My feeling, based upon Jack of Kent's analysis and the previous comments, is that it is unlikely that Simon would win any appeal and that, even if he did, he would be unlikely to be successful at a full trial as he would have to prove something that he himself apparently does not believe. Should Simon decide to go down that route, I would, along with thousands of others, give him my full support but realistically the chances of success look slim. Should Simon choose to call it a day now and pay the costs, no one would blame him and I am sure that his supporters would readily contribute the required amount and possibly even exceed it.

We should perhaps be thinking in terms of having lost this battle but the war is far from over. In fact, even if this case is lost it could prove to be a very decisive moment in the history of scepticism and free thinking in the UK. This sad episode should serve as both a warning and a rallying cry. There is no doubt that the BCA and others will present this judgment as a vindication of all of their claims. But we must not react by becoming fearful and silent in the face of such claims. Rather, we should redouble our efforts to combat pseudoscientific practices wherever we find them, choosing our words with care and precision. Perhaps we should set up a fighting fund named after Simon as a very public demonstration of our support for him? The money raised could be used to pay Simon’s costs and to support further efforts to promote critical thinking with respect to CAM. It could also be drawn upon should others find themselves in the same situation as Simon in the future.

Faithless said...

It is axiomatic that a writer cannot necessarily insist that the meaning with which he used a word is the meaning with which a defamation claimant must work.
To take the post which said 'bogus' is a counterfeit coin machine: in this case, it would be a natural inference that the alleged maker of bogus statements is alleged to be knowingly uttering falsehoods, since you can hardly unwittingly make counterfeit currency.
Likewise, I think Eady J's decision that it was statement and not commentary is probably correct.

If Mr. Singh has the money, he can use the proceedings to make the BCA look very silly; otherwise he must make an offer to settle, go back and re-write the article and make the BCA look silly in that way.

I recommend the book, by the way. Nothing like having a Professor of Complementary Medicine rubbishing almost all complementary medicine...

pvandck said...

Would it be right and proper to consider whether the chiropractors' pursuit of legal action here is bogus? Or are we not allowed to consider it.
I think this ruling will only serve to embolden other purveyors of fraudulent therapies and medicine to take the legal route every time their method of earning a living is exposed.
The irony, and a reason one might presume they went to court in the first place, is that they could interpret the ruling in the way the judge didn't intend and present it as vindication of their quackery - which I think would be actionable if anyone has the resolve to do it.

Codswallop said...

The idea that the chiro-quack-tors of Britain are unaware of the lack of evidential support for their preposterous claims is demonstrably false. "Bogus" seems a reasonable term in such a case, unless the spokesmen for the quacks are willing to admit they have not read the relevant medical studies supporting Singh's original assertion.

I know precious little about British jurisprudence, but I think a fairly bright ten-year-old should be able to demnostrate the "bogus" nature of chiro-quacktic medical claims.

hellosnackbar said...

Chiropractic is bullshit;although
spinal cranking for back pain can be shown to be effective.
Anyone interested in this modern day snake oil salesmanship should visit:www.quackwatch .com

dWj said...

How would this even work semantically? If I say, "the belief that the sky is usually orange is bogus", who exactly am I saying is intending to make a false statement?

I've been racking my brain since I heard of this, and up to this point I can only think of two reasons why a judge might have ruled this way. One is that his wife is a chiropractor. The other is that his son is. It's enough of a problem that British libel law is on its face as backward a legal form as can be found in the modern developed world, but the fact that the defendant can apparently be stuck trying to defend fanciful reimaginations of what he said is a twist I hadn't realized was layered on the foundation of crap that it starts with. Someone should research this judge's personal connections; I seriously don't see how run-of-the-mill incompetence would lead to a result like this.

DMcILROY said...

I'm sure this is going to sound hopelessly naive, but couldn't the judgment be appealed on the grounds that the judge didn't respect the procedure of the hearing, by patently disregarding the oral arguments presented.
Or does not taking any notes and reading a prepared statement in front of a courtroom full of witnesses not constitute sufficient evidence?

On the wider issue, there is a clear public interest that would be served in fighting the case. If serious critics such as Simon Singh are silenced by legal action, people will actively be harmed by all sorts of quack practitioners.

caebrwyn said...

I probably also sound naive but each hearing we have attended as libel defendants, before Justice Eady, Flaux and Master leslie,they all virtually took no notes and the decisions were obviously pre prepared, which made our trips up to london on the bus from south wales to say our bit seem pretty futile.

Andy said...

The only plus I can see from continuing to trial is that Singh might just win by showing the BCA were knowingly dishonest (even if that isn't his original contention. That would be one hell of a victory.

OR

He might lose by having counsel for the plaintiff prove that that the BCA are not dishonest but merely ignorant of the failings of chiropractic. Hardly a glowing win for the BCA.

Option B would be a strangely positive but expensive loss for Singh.

(word verification for this comment: "battyl")

Xezlec said...

This is by far the most insane thing that I have ever had the misfortune to hear in my life.

I will certainly donate at least 3 figures to the first organization I hear about that is set up in Mr. Singh's defence. I'm probably not alone.

Anonymous said...

Arrrrgh! Illegitimati non carborundum! Noli nothis permittere te terere! Don't let the bastards get you down! How's that for libel?

Anonymous said...

Your statement "The BCA, as with many CAM practitioners, may well be deluded, irresponsible, and sometimes rather dangerous" lacks a list of scientific references.
Are you just expressing your personal unfounded bias och do you have solid scientific evidence to back it up?

Anonymous said...

Without meaning to be facetious I assume that alternative uses and meanings of ‘Bogus’ would be helpful. I point to Bill and Ted’s bogus adventure.

Not in the spirit of Simon’s article but concreting the meaning of a word that can be demonstrated to have several, albeit with colloquialisms seems a stretch too far...

Anonymous said...

I get a bit worried about the fact that Eady gets all the big libel and privacy cases. Is this Justice Eady's law rather than England&Wales's?

Eady gets a lot of flack from journalists, etc, but Eady himself would say he is only enforcing the law as it is, and really it is the law that they should complain about. And actually Eady is responsible for a very important judgement, which has made the defence of fair comment much more tenable, and so really permitted journalists to do their work without capricious complaints, provided they phrase their comment properly. See the appeal ruling in Branson v Bower (1st case), as reported in this article: http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=27564&sectioncode=1

In this judgment, it was ruled that to be fair comment, it has merely to be comment that a reasonable person might have come to, recognising the diversity of opinion that might exist, ie, it does not have to be fair in the sense of even-handed, it merely has to be an opinion one might come to from the facts. But the facts upon which that comment is based must be made plain.

This ruling has made the life of journalists much more possible. They can set out the facts, then give their opinion on those facts, however odious as it may be to the party commented upon, and provided it is an opinion fairly connected to those facts, today the law can't touch them. So let us be grateful for that.

Now the comment complained of by Singh, is only a brief extract, I don't know the rest. If Singh failed to follow the form of setting out the facts upon which he formed his comment, then Eady was quite right, this is not fair comment and he can't bring that defence. It may have been so utterly clear from the text that Eady could prepare is ruling in advance, regardless of what anyone might say. Singh's foolishness for failing to consult lawyers before he went to press, for he surely could have said something very similar that would have been fair comment. As to the meaning of the word "bogus", I expect that is something that there will still be argument over. But if what you say does not have the meaning you intend it to have, then that is no defence in the libel court.

Martin said...

"Singh's foolishness for failing to consult lawyers before he went to press,"

So what it comes down to is that we have "free" speech so long as we pay a lawyer to check everything we write first.

Anonymous said...

The judge will only have ruled on what the words are capable of bearing the meaning alleged by the Claimant. It will still be for the jury to decide whether they actually do bear that meaning.
See the earlier case of Gillick in which Eady was overturned for finding words incapable of being defamatory:
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2001/1263.html.
This judgment shows that there is a low hurdle for allowing a case to go forward to the jury.
As for the judge's failure to take notes, and use of prepared script, this is unusual now that parties have to put in written arguments in advance. Frequently oral submissions add nothing to what has already been put in writing.

Anonymous said...

"So what it comes down to is that we have "free" speech so long as we pay a lawyer to check everything we write first."

I used to know a lawyer who was employed to sit up late in a newspaper office reading the copy before it went to print. When you are in that business, it's wise to have a lawyer reading it all first. But most of us are unlikely to have the influence to cause much damage by what we say, and needn't consult our lawyers.

What is free speech? It seems to me that people need to be responsible for the consequences of what they say or publish. Otherwise the Daily Tabloid could say what it likes about you and you couldn't do anything about it. There is a difference between being responsible for what you say, (ie civil compensation to the damaged) and being locked up for criticising the government. I'm of the view that the law in this country gives us too much responsibility for what we say, but I am in favour of retaining some level of responsibility. The libel tourism issue is also a disgrace. And we also lock people up for saying certain things, such as preaching violent overthrow of the state, or incitement to commit crimes, and that is probably sensible too. The question again is where one draws the line.

"Richard Keen" said...

It is important to keep this all in perspective.

Whilst JoK is a goodd journalist, it is perfectly possible to use the word "bogus" to describe chiropractic. Just be careful of mentioning an entity which is able to sue.

Also, the gossip here at the Faculty heard from the Inns of Court is that the word "bogus" was not the absolute keystone of the decision. Was it not the phrase "happily promotes bogus treatments" which was taken as a whole to be imputing dishonesty to the BCA? Rather than the word "bogus" alone?

Matt Wardman said...

I think that he has fallen foul of England's eccentric Defamation Law, and what I take to be Justice Eady's idiosyncratic interpretation.

Another reason to work to reform it.

Would "I think that" inserted at the beginning of the para help in this case?

T_U_T said...

is this really possible ? Can a judge make what you write to mean just anything else by simply declaring it to mean something at whim ?
If that is the case, then every your utterance can be punished at will. For example judge can decide "goodbye" means a death threat or blackmail, and send you behind bars

Anonymous said...

The good news, I suppose, is that dictionaries are now obsolete. All one has to do now is refer to case law to figure out what it is that we actually said.

This is clearly a (using the OED definition rather than the legal one) bogus ruling.

Anonymous said...

This ruling turns this article into wonderful satire.

m.o.kane said...

So, who's paying for all of this? Singh himself? No way he can afford it--I've seen what libel lawyers in the UK charge. And not only would he have to pay for his own counsel, he would have to pay for the chiropractors'. His publisher? In these days of massive layoffs and an industry threatened by, amongst other things, the Internet? If the publisher has E & O insurance, then the insurer will decide. If I were picking up the check for this judicial circus, I'd ask myself, how far will this go? It could easily go to trial (extremely expensive) and we could lose. Better to cut the losses now, pay, and not throw good money after bad. This is why the judicial system fails to shed light on disputes. It is a blunt tool for deciding a scientific issue, and in this case is failing miserably.

Anonymous said...

Something worrying here is how this might be used by other groups in a more expansive application of the manner envisaged by certain groups for the Incitement To Religious Hatred Legislation. Generally, common sense requires that the claimant prove that their claims are justified in the positive, however, Eady J. seems to tilt toward an interpretation in which it is the place of a critic to prove a negative; an anathema of the scientific process.

This is something that will probably be examined closely by advocates of Creationism & Intelligent Design whom, along with other purveyors of "alternative" medical treatments, often think in exactly this mode. In the US, these people have not been shy about using courts to enhance their aims and silence opposition.

Anonymous said...

Richard Keen sadly has it. Whilst "happily promotes bogus treatments" is not in fact, "happily promotes treatments knowing them to be bogus", it may commonly be taken as such.

In consolation the BCA will surely pay dearly for their victory. Singh has (now famously) uttered a truth.

Anonymous said...

I interpret Singh's comments to mean that the claims are not grounded in evidence or physiology and that the BCA happily promotes it anyway. Does happily mean intentionally, knowingly, and deceptively? I don't think so, but it is certainly possible. It would be hard to prove that the BCA purposely defrauds the public but it wouldn't be that hard to demonstrate that any reasonable person of the same or similar stature should damn well know whether or not the claims are bogus. Doesn't the law allow the defendant to prove that they "should" know better than to promote baseless treatment? Anyway, I want to say too that Singh won already because before this case was mentions in New Scientist, I never knew about him. I can't wait to buy his books now. I never heard of the BCA before, but now I know that they are a bullying organization that attempts to suppress criticism rather than come forth with hard evidence (dare I say "bogus."). I know that the English legal system is broken when it comes to nipping bogus libel cases in the bud rather than letting bullies try to break someone financially.

Peter A said...

Simon Singh might have to settle. However, his apology only need say something like: I did not intend to imply that the BCA deliberately promotes treatments it knows to be false; I apologise if this was implied in my article. I intended to imply that the BCA promotes treatments that are false. I hope this is now clear.

Anonymous said...

As an acedemic and primary health care practitioner, I can reliably and inform you that if you were to question the evidence that Singh would so willingfully want to give in defence of his statement, you would find it pityfully wanting. For it is based on reviews of literature by Prof Ernst (a most contraversial and often critised reviewer). He is far from being beyond reproach and his reviews that form his so called "evidence" are plagued with poor science.

Simply download his paper and see for yourself that Ernst and Canter did "no systematic assessment of the literature pertaining to the hazards of manipulation, including comparison to other therapies. Hence, their claim that the risks of manipulation outweigh the benefits, and thus spinal manipulation cannot be recommended as treatment for any condition, was not supported by the data analyzed. Their conclusions are misleading and not based on evidence that allow discrediting of a large body of professionals using spinal manipulation."

Further more even in his introduction he vastly over states (by thousands) how many chiropractors there are in the uk officially registered. Very questionable. He reviews his own subjective evidence and calls it empirical and then quotes it as current and unbiased.

For some reason people are over looking this. I am not chiropractic's biggest fan, but i am a scientist and to extrapolate this poor regurgitated data beyond its measures to call something bogus should, and i hope always will be, laughed out of court. But i take peoples point that the reasoning behind the ruling was interesting to say the least.

I personally hope chiropractic does go on trial as the literature is mostly supportive as published today by the NICE guidlines. Sorry guys but always check your premises before jumping to conclusions!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but saying somebody happily promotes something that is bogus means that they are promoting the bogus thing in the full knowledge that it is bogus.

Simon Singh made a mistake, as did the Guardian's sub-editors.

The fact that the defamation laws in England and Wales are completely doo-lally and stiffle free speech is sadly irrelevant in this case.

Are the BCA using a conditional fee arrangement to attack Singh? If so they may be trying to bankrupt him.

^^ is libellous by the way...

NoNanny said...

SS has a good case if he takes this to the European Court under freedom of expression. The very fact that he himself is punished for something quite arguable ´bogus´ meaning ´fact´ instead of ´opinion´...is disproportionate, as calling a treatment bogus, can never be seen as a fact it would mean my doctor would give me a litteral bogus if i came for a prescription.

Besides, i as a clear-thinking-rational-information-seeking human being, am Insulted and appaled that a libal law wants to think for me! and take away my view of others ´opinions.