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BCA v. Singh: Making Legal History

By |December 16, 2009|News|

Source The Jack of Kent

Previous articles relating to this case can be found here, here and here.

The case of British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh is now likely to make legal history.

The news broke today that the Court of Appeal panel hearing the appeal of the preliminary hearing on meaning will be joined by the Lord Chief Justice.

The panel will now consist of England’s two most senior appeal judges – the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls – as well as the formidable Lord Justice Sedley.

This is exceptional and, as far as I am aware, unprecedented for an appeal on just a preliminary point, rather than on a full substantive appeal of a decided case.

This is the heavy artillery of the judiciary.

This panel means that any judgment of the Court of Appeal could have immense effect on the future approach of the High Court to the question of what constitutes fair comment or a factual statement, and it may give firm guidance the extent to which the High Court can again impose a meaning of dishonesty either generally or against corporations in particular.

The Court of Appeal may not take this opportunity to adopt a robust approach, but having the two very most senior appeal judges on one panel rather tells against this. The composition of the panel does not by itself tell us how the appeal will be decided, just the potential significance of the judgment on future cases.

It is thereby probable that this Court of Appeal hearing on BCA v Singh will become a landmark case.

Moreover, should such a panel choose to criticise either party, or indeed the High Court itself, the effect could be damning.

It is becoming very interesting.

Science writer Simon Singh wins ruling in chiropractic libel battle

By |October 15, 2009|Ethics|

In two previous articles, here and here, I talked about author Simon Singh’s battle with the British Chiropractic Association. The Guardian reported yesterday that the initial ruling has been overturned.
From The Guardian:

A science writer who is being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association is to fight on after a preliminary judgment against him was overturned on appeal today.

Simon Singh was sued by the BCA after he wrote an article in the Guardian criticising the association for supporting members who claim that chiropractic treatments – which involve manipulation of the spine – can treat children’s colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying.

Singh described the treatments, for which he said there is not a lot of evidence, as “bogus” and criticised the BCA for “happily promoting” them.

In May, Mr Justice Eady in the high court ruled on the meaning of the words, saying they implied the association was being deliberately dishonest. Singh said that interpretation would make it difficult for him to defend himself at a full trial.

Singh was initially refused leave to appeal, but Eady’s interpretation was rejected by Lord Justice Laws, who said Eady had risked swinging the balance of rights too far in favour of the right to reputation and against the right to free expression. Laws described Eady’s judgment as “legally erroneous”.

Many scientists and science writers have rallied to Singh’s support, claiming that the freedom of scientific opinion is at stake.

Speaking after the judgment, Singh said this was the “best possible result”.

“Simon Singh’s battle in this libel case is not only a glaring example of how the law and its interpretation are stifling free expression, it shows how urgent the case for reform has become,” said Jo Glanville, editor of Index on Censorship.

Chiropractic evidence under attack in BCA/Singh case

By |June 29, 2009|Ethics|

Previously I wrote about the British Chiropractic Association suing science writer Simon Singh for libel. This has been widely criticized as a tactical mistake due both to the expense and to the negative publicity which has thus far ensued. The BCA has recently produced a list of evidence justifying the chiropractic treatment of children with asthma and colic which evidence-based blogs have proceeded to, for want of a better term, eviscerate. One of the criticisms was for the BCA not including a study which showed manipulation to be no better than placebo for infantile colic.
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British Chiropractic Association sues science writer for libel

By |June 17, 2009|News|

In a Guardian article in April 2008, Simon Singh, who has penned the popular science books “Fermat’s Last Theorem”, “The Code Book” and “Big Bang”, wrote about the likely risks of chiropractic treatment and whether or not there was any evidence that it was effective for various childhood conditions, including asthma and colic. The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) took offense to this, claimed that Singh had defamed their reputation and has sued him for libel.

Notwithstanding that in libel cases in Britain, it is the defendant who carries the burden of proof, and that this would be very expensive, Singh decided last year to fight on as experts said “we had a valid defence and stood a good chance of winning the case.”

However, this from the Index on Censorship website – On May 7th, 2009 the English High Court ruled that Singh must show that the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) was deliberately dishonest in promoting chiropractic as a treatment for various children’s ailments.

Mr Justice Eady ruled, with notes apparently written prior to today’s preliminary hearing, that an article by Singh, published in the Guardian should be classified as a ’statement’ and added that by use of the word ‘bogus’ Singh had inferred he believed the BCA had intent to convey dishonest claims to the British public.

In light of this ruling the matter may not go to trial. From Singh’s standing he does not believe the BCA had intent to deceive and therefore cannot prove this.

Costs of £23,000, relating to the preliminary hearing, have been awarded to the BCA.

Here is some discussion including an intelligent posting by the vice president of the BCA.
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