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Source Mail Online
The British Chiropractic Association has dropped its defamation case against science writer Simon Singh, days after he won a legal battle for the right to criticise what he regarded as ‘bogus’ science.
The BCA today served notice of discontinuance of its action against Dr Singh, after its successful claim suing him for libel was overturned by the Court of Appeal on April 1.
Dr Singh had said claims by some chiropracters that they could help treat conditions such as colic, ear infections and feeding problems in babies and toddlers were ‘bogus’ and without a ‘jot of evidence’ to support them.
The Court of Appeal held that what Dr Singh had written was a statement of opinion which was backed by reasons. The BCA said the Court of Appeal ruling had prompted its decision in a statement.
‘While it still considers that the article was defamatory of the BCA, the [recent appeal] decision provides Dr Singh with a defence such that the BCA has taken the view that it should withdraw to avoid further legal costs being incurred by either side,’ it said.
‘As those who have followed the publicity surrounding this case will know, Simon Singh has said publicly that he had never intended to suggest that the BCA had been dishonest. The BCA accepts this statement, which goes some way to vindicating its position’. Dr Singh’s article had appeared on a page marked ‘Comment and Debate’ in The Guardian in April 2008.
In it, he criticised chiropractic and the BCA’s claims that its members could help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying ‘even though there is not a jot of evidence’.
The case became a cause celebre for campaigners for reform of the libel law after Mr Justice Eady, dealing at first instance with issues of meaning and whether the words were fact or comment, held that they were defamatory – the ‘plainest allegation of dishonesty’ – and amounted to a verifiable statement of fact.
Solicitor Robert Dougans, of law firm Bryan Cave, which represented Dr Singh, said: ‘To have won this case for Simon is the proudest moment of my career, but if we had the libel laws we ought to have I would never have met Simon at all.
‘Until we have a proper public interest defence scientists and writers are going to have to carry on making the unenviable choice of either shying away from hard-hitting debate, or paying through the nose for the privilege of defending it.
He said the only issue which remained to be settled was the amount of his costs Dr Singh would be able to recover from the BCA, and how much he would have to pay himself.
It is believed that Dr Singh’s costs amount to some £200,000. ‘However well this process goes, Simon is likely to be out of pocket by about £20,000,’ Mr Dougans said.
This – and two years of lost earnings, which he can never recover – is the price he has paid for writing an article criticising the BCA for making claims the Advertising Standards Agency has ruled can no longer be made.’
‘In the game of libel, even winning is costly and stressful.’
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