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Thursday, 4 June 2009

Libel Law Has No Place In Scientific Disputes

Simon Singh is to apply to appeal the recent adverse ruling by the English High Court.

Earlier today the following statement was released - and supported by an incredible list of signatories, including both the Astronomer Royal and the Poet Laureate, the UK's former Chief Scientific Advisor, as well as Richard Dawkins, Ricky Gervais, Derren Brown, Harry Hill, and of course those who spoke at the recent support rally.

In a nice touch Simon Singh also insisted that it listed various grassroots science and skeptic bloggers and activists.

As a consequence, the coverage of the misconceived libel case brought against Simon Singh by the British Chiropractic Association finally broke through fully into the mainstream media, see for example, The Times, The Independent, and The Times Higher Education Supplement.


The law has no place in scientific disputes

We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.

The British Chiropractic Association has sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic for various children's ailments through an open discussion of the peer reviewed medical literature or through debate in the mainstream media.

Singh holds that chiropractic treatments for asthma, ear infections and other infant conditions are not evidence-based. Where medical claims to cure or treat do not appear to be supported by evidence, we should be able to criticise assertions robustly and the public should have access to these views.

English libel law, though, can serve to punish this kind of scrutiny and can severely curtail the right to free speech on a matter of public interest. It is already widely recognised that the law is weighted heavily against writers: among other things, the costs are so high that few defendants can afford to make their case. The ease and success of bringing cases under the English law, including against overseas writers, has led to London being viewed as the “libel capital” of the world.

Freedom to criticise and question in strong terms and without malice is the cornerstone of scientific argument and debate, whether in peer-reviewed journals, on websites or in newspapers, which have a right of reply for complainants. However, the libel laws and cases such as BCA v Singh have a chilling effect, which deters scientists, journalists and science writers from engaging in important disputes about the evidential base supporting products and practices. The libel laws discourage argument and debate and merely encourage the use of the courts to silence critics.

The English law of libel has no place in scientific disputes about evidence; the BCA should discuss the evidence outside of a courtroom. Moreover, the BCA v Singh case shows a wider problem: we urgently need a full review of the way that English libel law affects discussions about scientific and medical evidence.

Signed

Everyone below signed as an individual unless otherwise stated

Science

Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE
Professor of Physics and of Public Engagement in Science, University of Surrey

Dr Sabine Bahn
Cambridge Centre for Neuropsychiatric Research, University of Cambridge

Harriet Ball
Voice of Young Science network

Professor Michael Baum MB FRCS ChM MD FRCR
Emeritus Professor of Surgery and Visiting Professor of Medical Humanities, University College London

Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell FRS
University of Oxford and President, The Institute of Physics

Willem Betz
Emeritus Professor, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Chair, SKEPP

Susan Blackmore
Visiting Professor, School of Psychology, University of Plymouth

Professor Colin Blakemore FRS
University of Oxford

Sir Tom Blundell FRS
University of Cambridge and President, The Biochemical Society

Jean Bricmont
Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Louvain and Honorary President, Association Francaise pour l'Information Scientifique

Tracey Brown
Managing Director, Sense About Science

Professor David Colquhoun FRS
University College London

Professor David Cope

Professor Brian Cox
University of Manchester

Dr Tim Crayford MB BS MSc FFPH FRSA
Former President, Association of Directors of Public Health

Professor Richard Dawkins FRS
University of Oxford

Professor Edzard Ernst MD PhD FRCP FRCP (Edin)
Peninsula Medical School, Exeter University

Professor Elizabeth Fisher FMedSci
Institute of Neurology, University College London

Dr Ron Fraser
Chief Executive, The Society for General Microbiology

Carlos Frenk
Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics, Durham University

Diana Garnham
Chief Executive, The Science Council

John Garrow MD PhD FRCP FRCP (Edin)
Emeritus Professor of Clinical Nutrition, University of London and Former Chairman, HealthWatch

Professor David Gordon
President, Association of Medical Schools in Europe

Professor Hugh Griffiths FREng
University College London and Chairman and on behalf of
The Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK

Dr John Haigh
Former Reader in Mathematics, University of Sussex

Professor Martin Humphries
University of Manchester and Chair, The Biochemical Society

Sir Tim Hunt FRS
Cancer Research UK

Roland Jackson
Chief Executive, The British Science Association

Professor Steve Jones
University College London

Dr Stephen Keevil
King’s College London

Professor Sir David King FRS
Former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and Director, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford

Dr Chris Kirk
Chief Executive, The Biochemical Society

Professor Sir Peter Lachmann FRS FMedSci
University of Cambridge and Founder President, Academy of Medical Sciences

Jennifer Lardge
Voice of Young Science network

Armand Leroi
Professor of Evolutionary Developmental Biology, Imperial College London

Dr Robin Lovell-Badge FRS FMedSci
MRC National Institute for Medical Research

Daniella Muallem
Voice of Young Science network

Professor Dame Bridget Ogilvie FRS FMedSci
Former Director, Wellcome Trust

Professor Clive Orchard
University of Bristol and President, The Physiological Society

Professor Ole H Petersen CBE
University of Liverpool

Lord Rees
Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge

Les Rose
Clinical Science Consultant

Dame Nancy Rothwell FRS
MRC Research Professor and President, Biosciences Federation

Alan Sokal
Professor of Physics, New York University and Professor of Mathematics, University College London

Professor Beda Stadler
University of Bern, Switzerland

Dr John Stevens DMS
President and on behalf of
The Institute of Biomedical Science

Professor Ian Stewart FRS
Mathematician and Science Writer

Professor Raymond Tallis FMedSci
Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine, University of Manchester

Lord Taverne
Chair, Sense About Science

Hazel Thornton
Independent Advocate for Quality in Research and Healthcare

Sir Mark Walport
Director, The Wellcome Trust

Professor Robin A Weiss FRS
University College London and President, The Society for General Microbiology

Tom Wells
Voice of Young Science network

Robin Wilson
Professor of Pure Mathematics, Open University

Richard Wiseman
Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire and Author

Journalism and Publishing

David Aaronovitch
Columnist, The Times and Author

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
Journalist and Columnist

Wendy Barnaby
Editor, People and Society

Rosie Boycott
Former Editor, The Independent and Independent on Sunday

Geoffrey Carr
Science Editor, The Economist

Duncan Campbell
Journalist

Dr Philip Campbell
Editor-in-Chief, Nature

Sir Iain Chalmers
Editor, The James Lind Library

Nick Cohen
Columnist, The Observer

Clive Cookson
Science Editor, Financial Times

Nick Davies
Journalist and Author of Flat Earth News

Kendrick Frazier
Editor, Skeptical Inquirer

Professor Christopher C French
Head, The Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths University and Editor, The Skeptic Magazine

James Gleick
Science Writer and Journalist

Dr Ben Goldacre
Writer, Broadcaster and Medical Doctor

Nigel Hawkes
Director, Straight Statistics and Former Health Editor, The Times

Mark Henderson
Science Editor, The Times

Roger Highfield
Editor, New Scientist

Dr Richard Horton FRS FMedSci
Editor, The Lancet

Alok Jha
Science and Environment Correspondent, The Guardian

Rohit Jaggi
Columnist, Financial Times

Barry Karr
Skeptical Inquirer and Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki
Author, Broadcaster and Scientist

Sam Lister
Health Editor, The Times

Brenda Maddox
Journalist and Biographer

Dr Margaret McCartney
Columnist, Financial Times and GP

Robin McKie
Science Correspondent, The Observer

George Monbiot
Journalist

Andrew Mueller
Journalist and Author

Steven Novella
Editor, Science-Based Medicine; Director of General Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine and Author

Vivienne Parry
Science Writer and Broadcaster

John Rennie
Former Editor-in-Chief, Scientific American

Nick Ross
Journalist and Broadcaster

Ian Sample
Science Correspondent, The Guardian

Ariane Sherine
Comedy, Writer and Journalist

Michael Shermer
Publisher, Skeptic Magazine; Columnist Scientific American and Author of Why People Believe Weird Things

Rebecca Smith
Medical Editor, The Daily Telegraph

Bill Thompson
Technology Journalist

Arts, Humanities and Entertainment

Martin Amis
Novelist

Joan Bakewell
Broadcaster and Journalist

Antony Beevor
Historian

Jo Brand
Performer

Derren Brown
Psychological Illusionist

Alain de Botton
Author

Carol Ann Duffy
Poet Laureate

Peter Florence
Director of The Guardian Hay Festival

Stephen Fry
Broadcaster and Author

Ricky Gervais
Writer and Performer

Anthony Grayling
Professor of Philosophy, Birkbeck College University of London

Dave Gorman
Writer and Performer

Harry Hill
Performer

Robin Ince
Performer

Tim Minchin
Performer

Dara O'Briain
Performer

Penn Jillette
Illusionist, Juggler and Libertarian

Libby Purves
Broadcaster, Journalist and Author

David Starkey
Historian

Teller
Illusionist, Juggler and Libertarian

Sandi Toksvig
Broadcaster, Comedian and Author

Dr Richard Vranch
Performer and Ex-physicist

Skeptics and Campaign Groups

Australian Council Against Health Fraud

Australian Skeptics Inc

Peter Bowditch
Editor, www.ratbags.com

Neil Denny
Little Atoms podcast

Rachael Dunlop
Reporter, Skeptic Zone podcast

Jonathan Heawood
Director, English PEN

Narisetti Innaiah
Chairman, Center for Inquiry, India

Andy Lewis
Blogger, quackometer.net

Ronald A Lindsay
President and CEO, Center for Inquiry, USA

Simon Perry
Founder, Skeptics in the Pub (Leicester)

Dr Philip Plait
President, James Randi Educational Foundation, USA

James Randi
CEO, James Randi Educational Foundation, USA

Padraig Reidy
Index on Censorship

Sid Rodrigues
Chairman, Skeptics in the Pub (London)

Amardeo Sarma
Chairman, German Skeptics (GWUP)

Eran Segev
President, Australian Skeptics Inc

Law

David Allen Green
Solicitor

Jonathan Morgan
Fellow in Law, University of Cambridge

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
Barrister and Labour Member of the House of Lords



Some signatories wanted to make further comments:-

Stephen Fry, Broadcaster and Author:
“It may seem like a small thing to some when claims are made without evidence, but there are those of us who take this kind of thing very seriously because we believe that repeatable evidence-based science is the very foundation of our civilisation. Freedom in politics, in thought and in speech followed the rise of empirical science which refused to take anything on trust, on faith, on hope or even on reason. The simplicity and purity of evidence is all that stands between us and the wildest kinds of tyranny, superstition and fraudulent nonsense. When a powerful organisation tries to silence a man of Simon Singh's reputation then anyone who believes in science, fairness and the truth should rise in indignation. All we ask for is proof. Reasoned proof according to the established protocols of medicine and science everywhere. It is not science that is arrogant: science can be defined as ‘humility before the facts’ — it is those who refuse to submit to testing and make unsubstantiated claims that are arrogant. Arrogant and unjust.”

Professor Richard Dawkins, FRS, University of Oxford:
“This splendid manifesto hits so many bullseyes, I feel like adding my signature to every line of it. The English libel laws are ridiculed as an international charter for litigious mountebanks, and the effects are especially pernicious where science is concerned.”

Jonathan Heawood, Director, English PEN:
“You know there's something badly wrong with the libel law when a serious scientific writer is dragged through the courts for something he didn't even mean to say! Simon Singh's only mistake was not to distinguish clearly enough between ineffective and fraudulent treatments - both of which might equally be termed 'bogus'. The real culprit here is the rich English language and the arcane law of libel.”

Professor Richard Wiseman, Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, and author:
“England's strict libel laws can deter individuals from speaking out against bad science, even when they have strong evidence for their argument. Simon's campaign deserves the support of everyone who cares about fighting pseudoscience.”

Diana Garnham, Chief Executive, The Science Council:
“Delivery of professional health care should be based on science, not libel laws. It goes without saying that all professional health care scientists must be expected to base their professional practice on scientific methodology, encompassing both a rigorous evidence base and open peer review.”

James Randi, CEO and Dr Philip Plait, President, The James Randi Educational Foundation:
“We at the JREF support Simon in his quest for justice. It's clear from his writing that his intent was not to claim that the BCA knowingly commits acts of fraud, but that the BCA is nonetheless incorrect in their claims of the efficacy of chiropractic. Simon is, of course, correct. Furthermore, the ruling, as it stands, would produce a chilling effect on the ability of journalists to question the claims of anyone, including pseudoscientists. Whatever path Simon chooses over this issue, the JREF will be there, and to the best of our ability we'll have his back.”

Professor Sir David King, FRS, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government (2000-2007), Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (University of Oxford):
“It is ridiculous that a legal and outdated definition of a word has been used to hinder and discourage scientific debate. We must be able to fairly and reasonably challenge ideas without the fear of legal intimidation. This sort of thing only brings the law into disrepute.”

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Journalist and columnist:
“Freedom to write is said to be precious and protected in western democracies. That fundamental principle and the right to disagree with people and institutions is being compromised and threatened by those who use the law not for redress but as a warning to those whose views they resent. Many conscientious journalists and authors are finding their hands and tongues are tied. Simon Singh is one of them.”

Professor Chris French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths, and Editor of the Skeptic Magazine:
“The use of the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence brings shame upon English traditions of free speech, free enquiry and fairness. The British Chiropractic Association's legal action against Simon Singh is a clear indication that the organisation is unable to respond to the substantive aspect of Simon's challenge. There appears to be no substantive evidence in support of the effectiveness of chiropractic in treating a number of specific ailments, contrary to the BCA's publicly issued advice. If such evidence does exist, the BCA should present it. Instead, they have opted to use the perverse English libel laws to silence any criticism. Such action appears to indicate that they do not actually have the evidence to back up their claims.”

Dara O’Briain, Comedian:
“We have to avoid a precedent that puts anyone who writes about these matters from a scientific perspective onto the back foot in the battle against peddlers of misinformation, whether they are knowing or not. The preliminary ruling is a worrying development for comedians as well, a number of whom have been ridiculing the world of dubious medicinal and scientific practices for some time. For example, I may now have to reconsider my routine about homeopathy being a 300 year old con trick.”

Professor Armand Leroi, Professor of Evolutionary Developmental Biology, Imperial College London:
“If the English laws of libel can be used to stifle Singh, then the outlook for public discussion of the science that matters to us most, is bleak indeed.”

Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE, Professor of Physics and of the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey:
“It is bad enough that so many dubious therapies still thrive in the 21st century without proper scientific evidence to back them, but to try to gag scientists who quite rightly speak out against them is outrageous.”

Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, Scientific American columnist, author of Why People Believe Weird Things:
“This case is critical for all science writers and investigative journalists, for if our skeptical investigations and subsequent opinions can be squelched through the threat of a ruinously expensive lawsuit, then the result will be that misguided quacks and dishonest frauds can simply say and do what they like without recourse, with disastrous results for the public. There is no place for the law to stop critically important investigations into possible fraudulent or unfounded claims. Without the freedom to perform such important investigations, science and journalism take a back seat to anyone with the legal clout to stop us for their own nefarious reasons.”

Ariane Sherine, Comedy writer and journalist:
“Freedom of expression is essential to democracy. The British Chiropractic Association should be willing to engage in open scientific debate like any reputable medical body - instead, they're being truly spineless.”

Steven Novella ,Director of General Neurology ,Yale University School of Medicine, Editor of Science-Based Medicine and author:
“The BCA's lawsuit is not only anti-free speech, it is anti-scientific, as science requires open and transparent examination and criticism of all claims.”

Ben Goldacre, Bad Science:
"Last year I was sued personally, alongside The Guardian, by a German vitamin pill salesman called Matthias Rath. He had moved into South Africa, a country headed by an HIV denialist president, taking out full-page newspaper adverts claiming that antiretroviral medication was a conspiracy from the pharmaceutical industry to kill africans, and vitamin pills were the answer to the Aids epidemic. I was highly critical of these activities. The libel case brought by Rath dragged on for 17 months and ultimately cost £535,000 to defend. This is not an isolated case, and my thoughts are with Simon Singh. It is vitally important that we are able to criticise ideas and practices in medicine: this is how ideas improve, and it is how foolish, dangerous practices are eradicated. The law is wrong."

Ronald A. Lindsay President & CEO, Center for Inquiry:
“The Center for Inquiry fully supports Simon Singh in his defense of a libel lawsuit brought by the British Chiropractic Association. Those who believe in chiropractic therapies have ample opportunity to present their views to the public; as a matter of public interest, the BCA should allow critics of chiropractic the right of free speech as well.”

Professor Elizabeth Fisher FMedSci, Professor of Molecular Genetics, University College College, Institute of Neurology:
“The British Libel Laws are being abused at home and abroad - they badly need revising to stop us silencing honest debate at home and in the rest of the world.”

Professor Michael Baum MB, FRCS, ChM, MD, FRCR, Professor Emeritus of surgery and visiting professor of medical humanities, University College London:
“The whole scientific community and all those who support evidence and compassion in the care of the sick and all those who think that the search for truth is a laudable activity, must stand shoulder to shoulder with Simon Singh in his fight against a legal system that encourages the propagation of arcane voodoo belief systems whilst inhibiting free speech.”

Professor Raymond Tallis, Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine, University of Manchester:
“The use of libel laws to pre-empt questions about the efficacy of treatments that should be subject to scientific evaluation is potentially catastrophic. It represents a regression to a pre-scientific era when ‘truth’was established on the basis of personal authority of individuals. This trend towards an increasing use of libel laws makes the world less safe for patients who deserve properly evaluated treatments; that is to say for all of us.”

Dr Richard Vranch, Ex-physicist and performer:
“The law should be rigorous, fair and unambiguous in protecting writers who tell the truth about science and pseudo-science.”

Professor Doctor Beda Stadler, Immunologist, University of Bern, Switzerland:
“From abroad this looks like a rebirth of inquisitory methods. Welcome back to medieval times beloved Great Britain!”

Rohit Jaggi, Aviation and Motorcycle Columnist, Financial Times:
“We need to encourage informed debate on this, and any, subject. The current legislation serves to stifle debate - it needs to be reformed as a matter of urgency.”

Bill Thompson, Technology Journalist:
“All English journalists work under the oppressive shadow of our libel laws, and fear of a costly lawsuit has limited the scope of investigation into matters of public interest on too many occasions.”




And there was also this cross-party message of support from senior three MPs:-

We support the statement signed by scientists, journalists and others, which is concerned with the case of British Chiropractic Association v Simon Singh, but which raises the broader and serious problem of the impact of the English law of libel on open debate and criticism, and on journalists and writers, not only in the UK but worldwide The signatories are right to say that scientific disputes should not be resolved with libel laws and to draw attention to the chilling effect of English libel laws on the ability to debate and criticise medical and scientific evidence.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee is concluding an enquiry of libel law and we look forward to it recommending a rebalancing between plaintiff and defendant. We urge the Government and Parliament to pass the necessary legislation as soon as possible, and we hope that this attracts cross-party support.

Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP.

Michael Gove, Conservative MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.

Dennis MacShane, Labour MP.

22 comments:

Richard King (Chartered Engineer, Healer, Havant) said...

That looks like playing well with the public; scientists, like politicians and some others, seeking to be above the law. There is already a very strong perception of arrogance in modern science, with vociferous populists contributing mightily to that. This seems to be a continuation of that trend.

The above comment is more observation than judgement but I can see many taking it as the latter. Sensible, mature dialogue and engagement seems to be alien to modern science and part of the overall arrogance.

Zach said...

Great news! Glad people are still willing to fight the good fight.

Andy said...

So, with the initial ruling now under appeal, would it be fair to say the BCA can no longer claim vindication?

AndyN said...

Brilliant. Reading that long list of distinguished signatories and their comments has made my day.

Here's the link if you want to add your support to this statement:

http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/334

Chris Kavanagh said...

This is really excellent! It's good to see the case getting the coverage and response it deserves!

I can't imagine the BCA being able to come up with something similar.

Great job for keeping this issue in the public eye!

Paul Browne said...

This is good news, it's refreshing to see the scientific community rally around Simon Singh.

Appeals cost money though, is there a legal fund to which we can contribute? I seem to remember that therewas one but I can't find it now.

HDB said...

Signed.

Graeme said...

The list of signatories, and their comments, is nothing short of wonderful :-)

Andy said...

This story struggled to find space in the mainstream media, until today. Now it's hit the Wall street Journal!

TK said...

Do you know how many of us ordinary folk have signed as well?

Will the number and eminence of the signatories make any difference to the case?

GEOFF said...

Doesnt it remind you of a simpson's episode where Homer goes against the chiropracters?

Zeno said...

I got 10 hits on Google News alerts for 'British Chiropractic Association' this morning. Their reputation spreads...UK, USA, India.

Chris Wright said...

I have written the following to local chiropractors whose addresses i found on the web/in local directories. Please feel free to use it, it may just help:
Dear Sir,
I am writing to you, as I believe you both practice locally and are a member of the BCA.
As you are probably aware, your Association has recently sued Simon Singh. He is a respected science journalist who was awarded an MBE in 2003 for his services to Science, Technology and Engineering in Education and Science Communication.
He used the word “bogus” in describing Chiropractic and your organisation, instead of reasonably, intelligently and maturely debating the issue, used its institutional financial muscle to try to silence a doubter. This is rank bullying of the worst kind.
I suspect, and hope, that you have the decency to at least feel uncomfortable about your Association’s behaviour.
You may also recognise how this behaviour is reflecting very badly on the public’s perception of Chiropractors and will certainly backfire on your profession in the long run.
Can I urge you to call on your Association to drop this case and defend itself with truth and reason and to behave in a decent manner for the good of us all.

Alice said...

Paul Browne: Simon Singh has stated that with regards to funding, he'd rather funds went to support the next case of someone less able to bear the cost than himself. You can read his excellent, restrained and well-thought-out post here.

Richard King: thank you for summing up exactly what Simon Singh and scientists would like, and what the BCA would do anything to prevent, i.e. "sensible, mature dialogue and engagement". If the BCA had any evidence to support their success, or indeed prove any ill effects they've suffered from Singh's defamation - which must be far worse now than when people read Singh's article - I'm sure they'd be mature enough to produce it.

Thanks Jack of Kent, I'd never seen your blog before and will keep reading!

Graham P said...

I find it strange that the word 'bogus' now has a scientific meaning. Simon's problem is that he understands the power of words and he still chose to use words that were unscientific and provocative. Being in a position where he can influence the public in such a way means he also has the responsibility to take care with the words he choses to use. If he had stated the believed facts of there being no evidence for the treatment then the BCA would not have had any reason to take this action. Perhaps this is a lesson to all of us to temper our language to the audience, what is ok for a sceptic blog is not ok for main stream publication.

Michael Kingsford Gray said...

Professor Doctor Beda Stadler raised an interesting and telling parallel with medieval jurisprudence.

What Simon endured was, in my opinion, more akin to the ancient 'trial by ordeal' of the Spanish Inquisition than a vaguely modern hearing in the 21st C.

In that vein, surely he can appeal to the Monarch as an appropriately medieval response?
(Although her son's publicly demonstrated attitudes to vapid woo-woo might make one wary of such an approach!)

P.S.: You will have noticed that Chiropractors across the globe have been out in droves, publishing and presenting their 'plethora' of the efficacy of their magic back-crack non-bogus cures for the list of ailments that the BCA have promoted and continue to allow to be promoted.

Or maybe you haven't?

Andrew MW said...

fantastic, although the times' headline is disappointing and very shortsighted: "Review of libel law called for by comedians"...

Martin said...

Simon Singh has shown great courage in deciding to appeal. This courage is an example to us all.

Let's hope this case serves as a catalyst for the reform of the English libel laws.

The amount of bad publicity this is generating for the BCA reminds me of the McLibel case.

Anonymous said...

I am actually surprised that more lawyers and law practitioners haven't signed it, as both the burden of proof and the fact that the judge can decide upon semantics contrary to someone's expressed meaning of the word used, not letting the defendant use this as evidence in a full trial, seems to clash with basic principles in most modern legal systems....

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Thinks.

there might possibly be a reason why so very few lawyers have signed up to this...

The ruling from Eady looks pretty robust. If this goes to Appeal, it just racks up the costs that Singh will end up paying out.

I also find the letter quite misleading; it suggests Singh is being penalised for discussing science, which is clearly untrue. He is in trouble because Eady has held that his words accuse the BCA of dishonesty and thoroughly disreputable conduct. That is not a scientific issue.

SVETLANA PERTSOVICH said...

I think that " a rebalancing between plaintiff and defendant" will not help.
American libel law has this "rebalancing", but skeptics suffer yet because of this "more right" law.
Barret&Polevoy's case is an example of it.

It is necessary to abolish libel law at all.

ganja said...

Ha. U scientists seem to think you are above the law. the dark ages is over and your fight against religion was over centuries ago. I guess this gives you all something to bitch about but none of you are above the law and this has nothing to do with freedom of speech but more your arrogance. Karma is a bitch and will find you all out. ha ha....