Tuesday, 30 March 2010
The following has appeared on the Court Service Daily Cause List:
NOTICE FOR JUDGMENT
Take notice that on THURSDAY, 1ST APRIL, 2010 in COURT 4, at 9.30am, Judgment will be given in the following APPEAL From The Queen's Bench Division
A2/2009/1196 British Chiropractic Association -v- Singh.
So judgment day has arrived for Simon Singh and it will be on Thursday.
The judgment being handed down is that of Simon's appeal against the preliminary ruling on meaning.
For background, the High Court's original ruling is here and the transcript of the Court of Appeal hearing is here.
The judgment will be significant for Simon.
It will determine whether he can defend his statements about the British Chiropractic Association as "fair comment" or whether he will have to "justify" his statements as facts.
And, if the latter, whether he has to then "justify" that the BCA were dishonest as opposed to reckless or, as was suggested at the hearing, acting blithely.
(The worst case scenario for Simon is that the Court of Appeal upholds the ruling of the High Court.)
However, the terms of the judgment will probably have wider importance, beyond Simon's case.
The sheer seniority of the judges involved - the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of Rolls and Sir Stephen Sedley - will ensure the greatest possible impact for this judgment.
For example, the Court of Appeal may seek to use this case to entirely recast fair comment to cover any evaluative statement in relation to science and public health, even if it looks like a statement of fact.
If so, then the writer of a robust statement such as "there is no evidence that..." could even be protected, as well as someone writing the more comment-like "there is not a jot of evidence that...". The effect of this would mean that as long as there is no malice, the publisher of the statement will have a defence to a libel action.
The Court of Appeal may also provide guidance on what the High Court should do in cases such as Simon's when the judge determines meaning rather than, as is traditional with defamation, the jury.
The judgment is therefore likely to become a "leading case" for science writing and perhaps even libel generally even if, for some unwelcome reason, the Court of Appeal finds against Simon in this particular case.
Whichever party loses, there will be the possibility of applying for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, though such applications are rarely successful.
So, unless there is such an application, the case will return to the High Court, though it may be that the BCA will seek to settle if the judgment goes against them.
I plan to go to hear whether Simon has won or lost.
If you are in London then do come along to console or celebrate, depending on the result.
And if you cannot come along, I will also tweet the result here as soon as it is appropriate for me to do so.
No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.