Science writer to appeal chiropractic libel judgement
Posted: 03 June 2009 06:34 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Science writer Simon Singh to appeal against chiropractic libel judgement

It’s unlikely he’ll overturn the ruling on appeal. Let’s hope for the best.

“A leading science writer who is being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association is taking his case to the Court of Appeal after a preliminary judgement went against him. Simon Singh, who co-authored a book on alternative medicine called Trick or Treatment? with Professor Edzard Ernst of Exeter University, was sued after writing a piece for the Comment pages of the Guardian last year.

In the article, Singh criticised the BCA for claiming that its members could use spinal manipulation to treat children with colic, ear infections, asthma, sleeping and feeding conditions, and prolonged crying. Singh described the treatments as “bogus” and based on insuffcient evidence, and criticised the BCA for “happily promoting” them.”
...
“The case has led to a campaign to raise awareness of English libel laws, which critics claim can stifle legitimate and open debate about scientific and health issues. A statement, signed by more than 100 leading scientists and public figures, said libel laws had “a chilling effect, which deters scientists, journalists and science writers from engaging in important disputes about the evidential base supporting products and practices.”

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Posted: 03 June 2009 07:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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For all the complaints I see about our free speech laws, and how other countries have found a way to set reasonable limits, this type of story shows exactly why limits can be dangerous. Britain’s libel laws have been criticized before. This is just one more example why free speech should almost always trump other concerns. Thanks for the link Jules

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Posted: 06 June 2009 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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My understanding is that part of what makes rulings such as this different in Britain is that the burden of proof lies with the defendant more than the plaintiff.  Whereas here in the US it would be more dependent on the plaintiff demonstrating that the claim is incorrect and substantial harm was done.

Here’s an article about religion and libel in Britain, but within the first few paragraphs there’s a nice summary.

Personally, I much prefer the way libel is interpreted here in the US as opposed to the Brits.

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Posted: 06 June 2009 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Hawkfan - 06 June 2009 09:58 AM

My understanding is that part of what makes rulings such as this different in Britain is that the burden of proof lies with the defendant more than the plaintiff.  Whereas here in the US it would be more dependent on the plaintiff demonstrating that the claim is incorrect and substantial harm was done.

Here’s an article about religion and libel in Britain, but within the first few paragraphs there’s a nice summary.

Personally, I much prefer the way libel is interpreted here in the US as opposed to the Brits.

Canada, with their British based legal system is just as bad! That gave me second thoughts about moving there if McCain/Palin won the election! grrr

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Posted: 01 April 2010 06:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Update: Simon Singh has won his appeal! See HERE

Simon Singh wins libel court battle
Science writer accused of libel when he doubted chiropractors’ claims of success in treatment of some childhood conditions

guardian.co.uk,    Thursday 1 April 2010 10.59 BST

The science writer Simon Singh has won his court of appeal battle for the right to rely on the defence of fair comment in a libel action.

Singh was accused of libel by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) over an opinion piece he wrote in the Guardian in April 2008. ...

... but he’s apparently had to spend £200,000 to defend himself. That’s a horrid precedent, and it’s pretty clear from the article that the law has yet to change. For all it’s goodness, this news is only a partial victory. More is yet to be done.

[ Edited: 01 April 2010 06:05 AM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 01 April 2010 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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dougsmith - 01 April 2010 06:01 AM

Update: Simon Singh has won his appeal!

That is great news! Thanks, Doug.

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Posted: 01 April 2010 08:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Though I can’t really accurately assess the mood in Britain from here in the U.S., especially since I tend towards news sources that are likely to be sympathetic to Singh’s case, I have at least the impression that there is growing support for reform of the libel laws to protect opinions on scientific matters from frivolous lawsuits intended to suppress free debate. The opinion the court issues seems to support such changes, so I wonder if there isn’t some chance Singh’s sacrifices could be the “Roe v Wade” of British libel law?

From the opinion:

The opinion [expressed in an article like Singh’s] may be mistaken, but to allow the party which has been denounced on the basis of it to compel its author to prove in court what he has asserted by way of argument is to invite the court to become an Orwellian ministry of truth…[those claiming they had been libelled] cannot, by simply filing suit and crying ‘character assassination!’, silence those who hold divergent views, no matter how adverse those views may be to plaintiffs’ interests.

Scientific controversies must be settled by the methods of science rather than by the methods of litigation. More papers, more discussion, better data, and more satisfactory models – not larger awards of damages – mark the path towards superior understanding of the world around us.

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Posted: 01 April 2010 03:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I would think it would be reasonable for Singh to file a lawsuit to recover court costs including that £200,000 from the British Chiropractic Association.

Occam

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Posted: 01 April 2010 05:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Occam - 01 April 2010 03:29 PM

I would think it would be reasonable for Singh to file a lawsuit to recover court costs including that £200,000 from the British Chiropractic Association.

I was wondering the same thing—I thought that there was some provision in British law for recovery of expenses in this sort of trial. But I don’t know the specifics.

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Posted: 15 April 2010 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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And the BCA throws in the towel ...

Let’s hope their settlement includes paying Singh’s court costs. Still, excellent news!

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Posted: 15 April 2010 01:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Hooray! Unfortunately, this does nothing to change those horrid libel laws. I hope Britain continues to work toward that goal.

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Posted: 25 April 2010 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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two items
[Simon Singh gives interview to DJ Groethe on For Good Reason on the Libel Reform]

(Good News) and

[“Lawsuits Fly over Mean Reviews”  WSJ 4/23/2010]

(~Bad News—well sort of a funny story)
A guy’s wife posted good reviews of her husband’s books but bad reviews of many others, leading another author to think it was her husband sabotaging rivals.
The bad news is that the lawsuits show no sign of declining.

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Posted: 24 May 2010 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Doug,

Am I wrong? I thought the loser of a libel suit in Britain had to pay for the process ... court costs, and the legal costs of the defendant plus any punitive damages.

If not, maybe it’s been changed in recent years.

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Posted: 24 May 2010 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Analytic - 24 May 2010 09:53 AM

Am I wrong? I thought the loser of a libel suit in Britain had to pay for the process ... court costs, and the legal costs of the defendant plus any punitive damages.

If not, maybe it’s been changed in recent years.

I believe that’s right, but I’m not sure about the facts in this case.

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