Monday, 11 May 2009

What next for Simon Singh?

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We were extremely concerned to hear that the British Chiropractic Association have been successful in the first stage of their legal action against science writer Simon Singh, brought because of a piece he wrote for the Guardian last year (long since removed from the Guardian, although it can still be found elsewhere online). At the preliminary hearing on Thursday, judge Sir David Eady ruled that Singh's description of chiropractic treatment for childhood conditions such as colic as "bogus" was intended as a statement of "fact" (as the BCA argued) rather than a statement of "comment" (as Singh argued). The implication of this is that, under British libel law, the onus is now on Singh to prove that the BCA was being deliberately dishonest in promotic chiropractic treatments. Eady also awarded costs of £23,000 to the BCA.

This now places Singh in an extremely difficult position with regards to what he should do next. The best source we've found on this is the blogger Jack of Kent, who was watching in court on Thursday. Here's how he explained things at the time:
The ruling means that, as it stands, Simon Singh would have to prove at full trial that the BCA were being deliberately dishonest. This is not only extremely difficult but it was undoubtedly not Simon Singh's view in the first place. The BCA, as with many CAM practitioners, may well be deluded, irresponsible, and sometimes rather dangerous; but calling their promoted treatments "bogus" was not an express statement of their conscious dishonesty.
To follow up on this, Jack of Kent has now set out a list of three options for what Singh can do next – proceed to trial, appeal Thursday's ruling, or settle out of court with the BCA. I urge you to read them. If you want to show your support for Singh, you can join this Facebook group (which I was delighted to see has almost 3,000 members). And regardless of how this case ends, it has shown once again the desperate need for reform of Britain's libel laws.


quedula said...

The judge doesn't seem to understand the english language. "Bogus" is an adjective qualifying "treatment". If Simon Singh had wanted to imply dishonesty he would have used the adverb "bogusly" and applied it to "promoted".