Simon Singh's Fair Comment

Yesterday, Simon Singh won an important appeal in the libel action he is defending against the British Chiropractic Association. Singh is being sued after writing that the BCA “happily promotes bogus treatments” for which there is “not a jot of evidence” that they are effective. In yesterday’s ruling, a distinguished panel of judges declared that Singh’s article should be taken as a “statement of opinion, and one backed by reasons”. This opens the door for Singh to mount a “fair comment” defence (which they prefer to call “honest opinion” although that isn’t the official legal terminology). If the BCA pursue the case further it is highly likely they will lose.

The judgement is available as a PDF and was hailed by commentators as not only an intelligent judgement, but a somewhat literary one too. It quotes Milton, Orwell and Galileo along the way.

Padraig Reidy of Index on Censorship was the quickest of the journalists covering this issue to file a report on the outcome, and he has a bit more detail. I contented myself with taking some photos of the press conference, at which Singh and others gave their reactions.

[My photos on the PEN Flickr stream really are becoming a one-stop-shop for all your ‘close-ups of people talking at a public event’ needs.]

Also present at the press conference was the blogger Jack of Kent, who is the one-stop-shop for commentary on the BCA vs Singh issue (Simon says that its the site even he visits, when he wants to know what’s going on with his own case…). ‘Jack’ pointed out that the BCA had chosen to sue in order to protect and enhance its reputation, and discredit Simon Singh along the way. In fact, the reverse has happened. The case has caused much more damage, and much more negative publicity, than the original offending article. A Streisand Effect writ large.

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