Jun 04 2009

Singh Will Appeal – Keep Libel out of Science

Simon Singh was sued by the British Chiropractic Association for correctly pointing out that they promote therapies that are not backed by adequate scientific evidence – therapies which Simon called “bogus.” In a pre-trial hearing the judge ruled that was Simon meant by that statement was that all the members of the BCA know that their treatments do not work and promote them anyway, as an act of deliberate fraud.This means that if Simon is to go forward defending himself against libel, he has the burden of proof that the judge’s interpretation of what he said is true – an impossible task.

That is an absurd ruling, especially since Singh clarified exactly what he meant elsewhere in the article, that the chiropractors are simply deluded true-believers.

Simon announced today that he will appeal the judges decision and continue to go forward with his defense. This is good news for the cause of free speech, especially in the realm of educating the public about science and the fight against quackery and nonsense.

The BCA was essentially called out by Simon for promoting treatments – like adjustments for children with asthma or chronic ear infections – that are not supported by evidence. The BCA and the chiropractic profession as a whole deserve to be called out on this, and Simon is not alone in doing so.  The BCA did not respond by providing the evidence Simon claimed is lacking (and in fact the Guardian offered them space in their newspaper to do so). Rather they decided to sue Simon for libel. In my opinion, the purpose of this move was to intimidate a critic into silence, and perhaps even make an example of them as a warning to any future potential critics.

This is scandalous behavior which in my opinion does not reflect an honest, transparent, and scientific organization, but rather a group of thugs who want to ply their dubious trade free of public scrutiny.

Also, to put this in perspective we need to examine the English libel laws, which are themselves a scandal. The person accused of libel is guilty til proven innocent, and bears the burden of proof that their statements were true. Worse than this, however, is the fact that in English court the expense of defending a libel case in often in the tens of thousands of dollars, or more. Even if one successfully defends a libel case, it can be financially ruinous. Therefore, the threat of libel is an effective intimidation tactic. Strategically, it is much better to just settle (which means being silenced) that to incur the outrageous court costs.

Even worse, English courts will and have claimed jurisdiction over libel cases, even if the author is from another country, published in another country, and the target of their criticism is from another country. All that is necessary is for someone in England to have read the material. In the age of the internet this means that we are all potentially affected by the ridiculous English libel laws. This has led to so-called libel tourism, where claimants will try to get their libel case heard in English courts.

Simon has decided to take a significant personal hit in order to pursue his defense for two reasons. The first is to stand up for his criticism of the BCA and their “bogus” treatment of childhood medical conditions with manipulation. The second is to urge the British government to reconsider their libel laws.  They really are anti-free speech and anti-science. They are a menace to free-speech throughout the world.

Simon certainly has all of our support. Here is, in fact, a supporting statement hosted by Sense About Science that has an impressive list of signers. You can also hear an interview with Simon on this topic where we go into further detail on this week’s SGU podcast, which will go online Saturday.
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45 responses so far

45 Responses to “Singh Will Appeal – Keep Libel out of Science”

  1. Michael Meadonon 04 Jun 2009 at 10:13 am

    Excellent post, Steve. And totally agreed. English libel law is absolutely absurd and clearly an anachronism. Singh is being very brave in taking on those chiroprator bozos and the silliness of common law.

  2. HHCon 04 Jun 2009 at 11:45 am

    I disagree with the title of the petition, ” The laws have no place in scientific disputes”. The law has a place in scientific disputes. Both parties can bring their best case forward in the courtroom and have an impartial judge review their claims. If Singh wants to start a movement to change libel laws in Great Britain, he’ll have to get more than the 3 barristers in Britain that he currently has signed onto his sense about science petition.

  3. [...] Singh Will Appeal – Keep Libel out of Science June 4, 2009 — Skepdude READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “NEUROLOGICA” [...]

  4. Steven Novellaon 04 Jun 2009 at 12:13 pm

    HHC – the courtroom is not the appropriate place to resolve scientific disputes. Plus you miss the point that the personal expense of making your case in court is ruinous – the result is almost always to end debate and to silence critics. This is a horrible system.

  5. HHCon 04 Jun 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Dr. Novella, I respect your opinion. But when there is a serious dispute between parties, its best to use civil litigation. The personal expense of making a case does not have to be ruinous. There are pro bono services available in the U.S. court system. However, the legal system is time-consuming, and cannot be easily used by persons with a quick fix mentality.

    I would like to thank WWW for the mixed use internet speech presenting legal commentary, Bolger v. Youngs Drug Corp., 463 U.S. 60 (1983).

  6. Joeon 04 Jun 2009 at 2:00 pm

    There is a “sticky” thread at the JREF forum that tracks this http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=121214 . Also note that screen-name “Jack of Kent” is a bone fide lawyer who follows and posts (and analyzes) on our side.

  7. daedalus2uon 04 Jun 2009 at 2:22 pm

    HHC, your argument is disingenuous. The purpose of going to court is to win using any legal means. Any lawyer who does otherwise has committed malpractice. That includes making the cost to your opponent so high that he/she gives up. That is what is called “good lawyering”.

    The adversarial legal system is descended from the former system of trial by combat, based on the “legal theory” that if you were in the right, then God was on your side and you would be victorious. That evolved into a system of trial by champion, where parties would hire champions to fight for them. Now it has become trial by lawyer.

    Such an adversarial position is anathema to the practice of good science and sound public policy. Unless the parties have unlimited funds an adversarial proceeding won’t decide who is right, only who is left.

  8. artfulDon 04 Jun 2009 at 2:28 pm

    d2u, that was short, sweet and absolutely to the point.

  9. HHCon 04 Jun 2009 at 2:32 pm

    dedalus2u, Your comments are entertaining, but your understanding of the purpose of the U.S. court system, malpractice, and “good lawyering” is limited.

  10. Steven Novellaon 04 Jun 2009 at 2:37 pm

    HHC – the primary point of contention in the Singh case is whether or not there is sufficient evidence to support the use of chiropractic to treat children with asthma or ear infections. There was absolutely no reason to bring the legal system into this. The BCA could simply have provided evidence to support their practice. They were given space to do so in the Guardian. They have multiple other venues for doing so. They did not.

    The BCA is exploiting the English libel laws to harass a public critic in the hopes, it seems, of silencing them and intimidating future critics.

    In this case the legal system is unnecessary and expensive.

  11. Bryceon 04 Jun 2009 at 2:44 pm

    HHC – I have a friend who’s three years into law school. The courts are not where scientific arguments are held, they are for legal arguments.

    Judges have to rule on precedent, laws and their constitutionality, and interpreting the laws and constitution (I’m using “constitution” for laws about what laws are permitted). As much as having a legal background can help understanding scientific evidence, there are many lawyers who would not be able to properly interpret scientific arguments simply because science works differently.

    If a scientific argument has to be taken to the courts, one of the sides should lose all scientific credibility.

  12. artfulDon 04 Jun 2009 at 3:01 pm

    HHC is a chiropractic supporter, so naturally he would be simpatico with any other profession that relies on good lying for a good living.

  13. HHCon 04 Jun 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Dr. Novella, I believe that we must wait for Singh to actually file the appeal with respect to the current judgment. At the same time, his barristers must prepare to present his best case in the event he loses the appeal. I cannot argue that British chiropractors can or cannot successfully treat childhood asthma or ear infections based on British standards of chiropractic research. It is possible that Singh may not have sufficient scientific qualifications or expert knowledge to win his case.

    Bryce, there are science and technology law firms that deal with scientific issues daily.

    artfulD, lying for a living is malpractice, and in court, its a punishable offense called perjury.

  14. artfulDon 04 Jun 2009 at 4:20 pm

    HHC,
    Perjury is of course the offense of willfully telling an untruth in a court after having taken an oath or affirmation. One could only hope that chiropractic was punishable as perjury, but so far it’s not a crime for the quack to lie about the efficacy of quackery. He just has to take his attorney’s advice to pretend he believes what he’s saying.

  15. daedalus2uon 04 Jun 2009 at 5:07 pm

    HHC, the lawyers in a case don’t do the lying themselves, they call “witnesses” and construct a case. If a lawyer can find a crank who will swear that X causes Y, and has a sympathetic client, they can win cases with no basis in fact. That is a great weakness of the US judicial system. That is what destroyed Dow Corning. Silicone didn’t cause any diseases but the legal system doesn’t care about what is correct, only about who wins.

    Cases are not about “justice”, they are about money. If BCA cared about “justice”, they never would have brought this case.

  16. Matt S.on 04 Jun 2009 at 5:39 pm

    HHS says: “I cannot argue that British chiropractors can or cannot successfully treat childhood asthma or ear infections based on British standards of chiropractic research.”

    So in CAM every country decides its own standard of research for every treatment?

  17. HHCon 04 Jun 2009 at 6:52 pm

    If you try to see both sides of this particular case, you would realize that the British Chiropractic Association is using their legal counsel properly. These Britons have been educated in chiropractic care, received degrees, contribute articles to journals, have been licensed under British law as a profession, have set up practices, and maintain a client base. The Guardian is one of several newspapers. Singh decided to promote one book that he wrote as a science writer, Trick or Treatment, and stated that BCA’s foundation of practice is only bogus treatments. Since Singh used a public forum to crititicize professionals who practice with clients, and furthermore he does not practice himself, he got sued by BCA.

    daedalus2u, Its too bad about silicone, but the surgeries which used the product and harmed the female patients were the problem as I recall.

    Matt S, Does CAM have different standards of research for treatment in different countries? I am sorry, I do not know the answer to that question.

  18. tmac57on 04 Jun 2009 at 7:36 pm

    HHC- You (and the judge) seem to have missed the point that Dr Novella is making about what is wrong with this case :
    “In a pre-trial hearing the judge ruled that was Simon MEANT by that statement (therapies which Simon called “bogus.” ) was that all the members of the BCA know that their treatments do not work and promote them anyway, as an act of deliberate fraud.” Then:
    “That is an absurd ruling, especially since Singh clarified Exactly WHAT HE MEANT elsewhere in the article, that the chiropractors are simply deluded true-believers.”
    So all of this rests on the presumed meaning of “bogus” in the context that Singh used it, not on the merits of the efficacy of chiropratic to treat any ailment ( although Singh was calling THAT into question). The judge was completely out of line to let this go forward as a libel suit, because is essence, this is about a difference of OPINION about what the science shows concerning the efficacy of chiropratic to treat specific things.
    It seems clear that since the BCA ,instead of defending themselves with scientific evidence, chose to bring a libel suit, that they are indeed trying to bully their opponents into submission instead of letting the science speak for itself. That is a ‘bogus’ way of deciding a scientific conflict. You might characterize it as a “Don’t f**k with me or I’ll make you wish you hadn’t” sort of ‘science’ .

  19. daedalus2uon 04 Jun 2009 at 8:08 pm

    I completely agree with you that the BCA is using their legal counsel properly. That is exactly their purpose to bully opponents into submission.

  20. Mark Entelon 04 Jun 2009 at 9:09 pm

    I find the most bizarre part of this the judge’s interpretation of what the word “bogus” means. A strange case where the term “judicial activism” may actually be appropriate. I hate the lecture the English on the proper use OF English, but this is absurd.

    I have always been very proud that the American legal tradition arose out of the painstakingly developed system of British common law. So this is especially sad. The judge’s ruling in this case was, in the words of Steve Mirsky “totally bogus.”

  21. CKavaon 04 Jun 2009 at 10:22 pm

    I’ve been following this case since it started and was present at the preliminary hearing and all I can say is that anyone who argues that the courtroom is the place for this issue to be discussed must not be paying to what’s been going on.

    Simon published an article in the Guardian not to promote his book but to provide an alternative perspective during ‘Chiropractic awareness week’ a week long promotion of Chiropractic treatments arranged by the BCA. The original article states this clearly.

    In it, he called attention to the fact that chiropractors promote their treatments for much more than just back ache (as most people believe) and that the evidence that chiropractic treatments actually helped non-back related issues was simply not there. He mentioned the BCA in particular because they had a leaflet which promoted chiropractic treatments for a variety of childhood ailments including ear infections and colic.

    The BCA’s response if it was interested in defending it’s position should have been to publish a response citing the evidence for it’s claims. Instead the BCA (an organisation) chose to sue an individual (and not the paper the article appeared in). This was clearly in an attempt to get Simon to capitulate and apologise rather than an attempt to have the evidence weighed in court. And it’s gone down hill from there.

    The judge’s definition at the preliminary hearing means that the evidence is irrelevant because what Simon would have had to show to win is not that the evidence was not there but that all BCA Chiropractors do not believe in chiropractic medicine.

    Eugh… it’s farcical! And the only good thing to come out of the fiasco is this new campaign to reform the horrendous English libel laws. So good on Simon and good on Steve for promoting the campaign further!

    For anyone so interested I’ve got a comprehensive run down of all the articles on this issue here:http://godknowswhat.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/simon-singh-case-response-roundup/

  22. HHCon 04 Jun 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Its unfortunate that the writer Singh presented his ideas during chiropractic awareness and promotion week. The BCA took his criticism as a chiropractic detractor. They work with babies, children and adults. They use standard treatments. As professionals, they can be sued by patients who have been injured by their care. This is not about their actual claims of malpractice, but instead a writer’s critism of their “bogus” techniques in a prominant highly read newspaper. The judge must interpret the laws and interpret the science writer’s intentions as well as words. If the judge seems overly hard on Singh, then I believe it is to promote a settlement to which both parties must agree. I don’t see Singh as going to settlement, instead he insists on further legal arguments pertaining to appeal of the court ruling. If this ruling disturbs the scientific community, I would recommend that you urge Singh to compromise. In this manner, he will have resources to carry on his work and use a scientific forum instead of the media.

  23. CKavaon 05 Jun 2009 at 12:00 am

    HHC you really seem to be missing the point. No-one is debating that chiropractors work with babies, children and adults and have experience doing so. What is being debated is whether or not the evidence is there that what they do for babies and children is actually effective. And the fact is that the evidence isn’t there otherwise Singh would have not labelled the treatments as bogus.

    If you ever have the pleasure to meet the man or listen to one of his talks you’ll no doubt realise quite quickly he isn’t in the habit of making statements about the state of evidence for things he hasn’t looked into.

    He defined what he meant by bogus in the following paragraph and it meant a treatment lacking scientific evidence for efficacy. This is a position he stands behind fully and he has in fact provided a publicly viewable breakdown of the lack of evidence for the treatments he labelled as bogus. This can be seen in his defence statement on Jack of Kent’s blog.

    The BCA in contrast has insisted it has ‘a plethora’ of evidence but has not made it publicly available and the only studies it mentions on other parts of it’s website are extremely dubious.

    On top of this, your portrayal of the BCA as the beleaguered party doesn’t hold up. The BCA actually turned down the offer to provide a response that would be printed in the Guardian alongside a statement being printed that would make it clear that the BCA challenged Singh’s claim that the promoted treatments that had no compelling evidence behind them. So saying that Singh insists on legal action is seriously twisting the issue.

    What Singh is actually insisting is on defending his article in the face of an attempt to use the widely derided and extremely unfair English libel laws to bully him into retracting it by the BCA. The BCA hasn’t engaged in a debate on his points, in fact it hasn’t even provided ANY public reference to the ‘plethora of evidence’ it claims to have. This is strange behaviour for a group which you are contending is only interested in settling the issue with evidence.

    Finally, I urge you to take a look at Simon’s open and detailed account of the past 12 months available here:
    http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/340
    and then compare it with the non-statements issued by the BCA and filtered through their ‘brand alchemists’.

    This is a straightforward case of alternative medicine practitioners trying to legislate away critics instead of addressing their points. And as a result the science community, the skeptical community, the journalistic community and many more are all standing in support of Simon. I really don’t think you are going to see many people taking up your offer to ask him to settle.

  24. SteveAon 05 Jun 2009 at 8:05 am

    It’s not often I disagree with Dr Steve (in fact, this is a first) but I think I have to stick up for the UK system. To put it simply, If I’m carrying on a trade or profession and someone says I’m no good at it, then that person has libelled me. It’s then that person’s job to back up their statement with proof that I’m no good. I’m innocent until proven guilty and it’s my accuser’s job to prove guilt, if any. This is essentially the case the chiropractors’ have made. However, whether Simon intended libel in his article is a moot point. You might also argue that it’s too easy to accidentally libel someone under UK law.

    And won’t it be fairly easy, rather than ‘impossible’, for Simon to prove that most chiropractic is bogus? I would have thought there would be a lot of evidence that, beyond its ‘massage therapy’ aspect, chiropractic is not a valid medical treatment for anything. Even the absence of evidence (ie properly conducted medical trials) that even one of these treatments work would be a positive. But perhaps I’m missing something.

    In any event this trial will open the eyes of many people to the true nature of Chiropractic. I would guess that most people in the UK consider it to be a normal, properly regulated, clinical technique backed by evidence (I know I used to). It’s time it was exposed for what it is.

    (PS. I would love to see Dr Steve in the UK speaking for the defence.)

  25. CKavaon 05 Jun 2009 at 8:53 am

    SteveA> I think the point your missing is that the judge’s decision on the meaning of the word ‘bogus’. Under his definition Simon would have to show that chiropractors deliberately promote treatments they know to be ineffective in order to defraud the public.

    The problem is a) he didn’t mean that, b) most chiropractors DO believe in their treatments and c) that means the evidence for the effectiveness of chiropractic treatments is not at all central to the case.

    The UK libel laws are a joke. An Oxford study found the cost of defending a libel case in the UK to be 140 times higher than the average in Europe. That means it is practically impossible for a single individual to take the risk of fighting a case against a large organisation. That’s terrible for freedom of speech and as this case and the influx of foreign individuals and organisations trying to sue in UK courts show it is being exploited.

  26. HHCon 05 Jun 2009 at 11:18 am

    If the British chiropractic care is lacking science with regard to the practice of children, why does a science writer and not a reknowned physician or medical association have this same problem which Singh seems to find himself in? If the judge’s ruling isn’t to Singh’s liking, we should immediately for his cause change British libel laws? This is not rational thinking. Finally, the settlements offers need to be considered by BCA and Singh. There usually are several offers between parties before U.S. cases get settled. Almost 90-95% of all U.S. cases settle prior to trial.

  27. rwbltd01on 05 Jun 2009 at 11:23 am

    Dr. Novella:

    I am a US attorney. I enjoy the SGU podcasts very much. I agree with your position on chiropractic and CAM. I am also sure that you are correct in your assertion that BCA’s suit is an intimidation tactic.

    I know that the law of defamation is very complicated in this country and do not know anything about the British defamation laws. I have only handled a few defamation cases over the last 25 years of my practice and only one to the appellate court level.

    What I question about your article and some of the comments following it is whether the person accused of the defamatory statement can define the words used in the defamatory statement. I do not know how the judge made the decision, but it is possible that the law would look to the common or even dictionary definition of the word “bogus.”

    The etymology of the word is from the US when it meant counterfeit money in the early 1800′s. From OED: “Counterfeit, spurious, fictitious, sham.”

    This may be the issue on appeal for all I know and maybe the law is not clear on the point and the appeal will clear that part of the law up.

    The judge may have found that Simon’s definition of the word was too remote from his use of the word in the article. Maybe he should have defined it in the same sentence as he used it.

    It is indeed unfortunate that Simon finds himself in his current situation if he is unable to pay his legal bills. It may be that the Guardian will fund or has funded his defense. I do wonder how the Guardian’s editors missed the issue and allowed the word to appear in the article.

  28. HHCon 05 Jun 2009 at 11:23 pm

    rwbltd01, The eleventh edition, revised of the Oxford English Dictionary, defines bogus as an adjective meaning not geniune or true. I believe the judge used the current definiton to rule that Singh implied the chiropractic treatments were false treatments.

  29. artfulDon 05 Jun 2009 at 11:58 pm

    True that.

  30. CKavaon 06 Jun 2009 at 7:36 am

    HHC & rwbltd01>

    Here is how the judge defined bogus:

    “Everyone knows what bogus treatments are. They are not merely treatments which have proved less effective than they were at first thought to be, or which have been shown by the subsequent acquisition of more detailed scientific knowledge to be ineffective. Bogus treatments equate to quack remedies; that is to say they are dishonestly presented to a trusting and, in some respects perhaps, vulnerable public as having proven efficacy in the treatment of certain conditions or illnesses, when it is known that there is nothing to support such claims.”

    I would say this is a very unusual definition. As it suggests that if you say something is bogus you are saying it has been known to be bogus for all time and that no-one promoting it has faith in it.

    Oh and HHC> look into the case a bit further and you’ll find two interesting things. The General Chiropractic Council that oversees all chiropractors in the UK used the word bogus to describe undesirable elements in chiropractic practice in a document published a few years ago AND the Advertising Standards Agency has upheld a complaint about a chiropractor promoting treatments for colic citing the lack of any compelling evidence as a reason.

    So you are in the strange situation where the ASA has made a ruling that chiropractors cannot promote treatments for colic as there is no good evidence to support this claim. While Simon Singh is being sued for saying the same thing about colic and 5 other ailments which are also lacking any compelling evidence that chiropractic treatments help.

  31. CKavaon 06 Jun 2009 at 7:40 am

    HHC> Also, it’s not about getting the law redefined to suit Simon. It’s about appealing a very poor decision and at the same time drawing attention to the terrible UK libel laws.

    There have been calls to reform UK libel laws for years. Simon’s case is just the most recent example of how flawed they are.

    By the way, are you actually defending the UK libel laws as being a good system?

  32. HHCon 06 Jun 2009 at 11:08 am

    Ckava, Interesting post about the General Chiropractic Council and the Advertising Standards Agency. His defense could include supporting documentation if it is ruled relevant under British evidentiary rules. However, his claims were made in the media, and he does not have an affiliation with the Council and the Agency and he does not have access to their records. He will have to defend all his statements based on his research and his lastest published work, Trick or Treatment.

    You speak about reform of UK libel laws. The statement is all encompassing. What specifically are Britons concerned about? You identified cost as a factor. What specific changes in the British libel laws should be made to facilitate barristers work with the courts?

  33. CKavaon 06 Jun 2009 at 2:06 pm

    You are right that the GCC using bogus and the ASA decision do not necessarily have a direct impact on the case. They will however possibly feature in his defences argument if the appeal is accepted.

    My point in raising them though is that when considered alongside the court case they do make the court case seem a bit silly. If chiropractors can describe other chiropractors as bogus and the ASA can make decisions were they rule there is no compelling evidence that the treatments work for certain ailments… why should Simon Singh be sued for doing essentially the same thing after spending years researching the topic with Ernst?

    As for libel reforms not being an expert I can only offer my general impressions and that is that a system like in the US where the burden of proof lies with the accuser would be a good start.

    Simon Singh’s suggestions on the matter also seem sensible:

    “I should stress that I am not arguing that the libel laws should be abandoned, but it is clear that the costs should be reduced, the process should be accelerated, the burden of proof should be reversed and it should be harder to launch a libel action in the first place. Possible improvements would be rapid enforced mediation or a “libel small claims court model”, as either approach would reduce the disproportionate cost of libel cases compared to the potential damages.”

  34. tmac57on 06 Jun 2009 at 4:07 pm

    HHC- Let’s suppose that someone was going around convincing people that for $1,000,000 he could perform a ritual over their loved one’s grave , and that on May 5th 2100 they would be raised from the dead, and thousands of people were flocking to him in the hope that this were so. Now, some astute person writes an editorial in the Guardian , pointing out that there was no reason proven to believe in this, and that the whole thing is ‘bogus’. Do you believe that the person making the ‘bogus’ statement has committed libel? Should the courts let a libel suit to that effect go forward?
    I can’t see that any judge would ever rule this way because they would obviously see that the ritual was probably fraud, and they would be laughed off the bench. So in the Singh case, what is probably going on is that the judge is either a believer in chiropratic, or is uncertain, but knows that many others believe in it strongly. so he has made a political judgement rather that a judicial one.

  35. [...] Strong support from Steven Novella host of the Skeptics Guide in an excellent article on his Neurologica blog. Along with news that Simon will feature on the upcoming SGU podcast. [...]

  36. HHCon 07 Jun 2009 at 11:52 am

    tmac57, Your hypothetical case involves a exorbitant price tag involving death and resurrection. Chiropractors in Britain who practice the techniques in question charge their cost either to Great Britain’s national health program or a minimum cost to clients for services. Their practice is on the living, not “Lazarus”".
    With respect to your question, I do not believe that common sense is libelous. But , if a writer in the Guardian is charged with libel, I expect him to stand and deliver in court! So does the judge in question.

  37. CKavaon 07 Jun 2009 at 5:57 pm

    HHC I don’t think you’ve really answered most of the problems with the judge’s position you are defending. Maybe this example will make it clearer:

    “On Eady’s logic, a writer who condemns as “bogus” a neo-Nazi’s claim that a conspiracy of Jews controls American foreign policy could be sued successfully if lawyers jumped up and said neo-Nazis sincerely believed their conspiracy theories to be true.”

    I presume being a supporter of Eady’s decision you would be behind the neo-Nazi’s case too?

  38. artfulDon 07 Jun 2009 at 6:59 pm

    HHC would need to know first if the neo-Nazi was also a chiropractor.

  39. tmac57on 07 Jun 2009 at 8:12 pm

    HHC- “With respect to your question, I do not believe that common sense is libelous. ”
    Yeah, this puts me in mind of an old joke: A man walks up to a pretty woman and asks her if she would have sex with him for $500. Of course, not being that kind of woman, she is offended, and tells him she’s “not a prostitute!” The man continues to proposition her ,increasing his price until he reaches the grand sum of $1,000,000. At this point, the woman is understandable tempted, and says well OK, I will for $1,000,000. Great ,the man says, now we’ve established that you ARE a prostitute now all we have to do is find a price that we can agree on.
    Now, that we can agree that a common sense position is not libelous, now all we have to do is determine what is common sense. My bet is that Simon Singh, having looked at the science, and coming to the conclusion “that they(chiropractors) promote therapies that are not backed by adequate scientific evidence ” is using common sense when he says that those therapies are “bogus”.

  40. HHCon 08 Jun 2009 at 11:35 am

    CKava, Your hypothetical thinking is off-base. Holocaust survivors have successful sued pro-Nazi historians for denial of the Holocaust in British courts. It is disrespectful of British jurisprudence to speak of the judge’s decision in your manner.

    artfulD, Chiropractors have politcal views of the world which if
    you engage them in conversation they will share with you.

    tmac57, The man on the street which engages in the actions you suggest are illegal. The woman who accepts his monetary proposal for sex is also engaging in an illegal act.

    Singh may be using “common sense”, but he needs to share his information with the court. The two parties must present their legal arguments in court. No amount of blog discussion will decide the case. The blog is being used in the same manner as the Guardian as public media sources.

  41. CKavaon 08 Jun 2009 at 12:11 pm

    HHC I’m getting the strong impression that it’s a futile endeavour trying to discuss this with you but lets press on anyway.

    The fact that holocaust deniers have lost in British courts is irrelevant to the point being made (and by the way if your thinking of David Irving it was he who brought the libel case and it wasn’t against a holocaust survivor).

    What I was trying to do by pointing to Nick Cohen’s analogy (see the quotation marks) is that using the very same judgement you are defending you could defend holocaust denial in the manner described. That does not mean holocaust deniers will make use of it or that a different judge wouldn’t rule differently but the point is that following Eady’s logic it is libellous to describe something as ‘bogus’ if the person believes in what they are promoting. That is silly as the analogy shows.

    As for it being disrespectful to question the judge’s decision, why? Are you suggesting judge’s are infallible or that bad laws never deserve to be criticised? My criticism pales into comparison with the fact that American states are passing laws to make British libel laws inapplicable in America to protect their citizens from spurious libel cases.

    Anyway, it’s quite clear that you are defending this purely because you support chiropractic medicine. That’s a silly position to take. You could support chiropractic and still recognise that the case and the laws are deeply flawed, say like this chiropractor:
    http://chiropracticlive.com/advertising-standards/more-power-to-the-sceptics-elbow/

  42. HHCon 08 Jun 2009 at 12:59 pm

    CKava, There have been multiple cases in British courts with respect to the historian in question.

    With respect to the British judge’s logic, you have twisted the statement from Singh, who believes the treatments to be bogus. The BCA believes his words in the media are libelous. The conclusions of chiropractic reviewers which monitor their profession are relevant to cases of malpractice

    Its not wise to imply disrespectful associations of the judge based on his court behavior.

    Frankly, I hope the best argument wins in court with respect to BCA v. Singh.

  43. HHCon 09 Jun 2009 at 12:52 am

    How do you keep legal costs to a minimum in London and Wales? You would utilize the services of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP) in London, England. NALP represents paralegals in England and Wales for the past 22 years. A paralegal is not a qualified Solicitor (or attorney) or Barrister. The public can call NALP to see if a person is member with paralegal qualifications. Qualified paralegals can do most things a Solicitor can except for three exceptions. #!. They do not have the rights of audience in all courts. #2. They cannot draft a contract for the sale of land or property for profit. #3. They cannot make an application for the grant of probate on behalf of an executor. Paralegals can work for themselves as self-employed freelancers if they obtain their work from solicitors. After a paralegal has obtained the highest level of membership, the License, they can operate their own legal office when insured to give advice and assistance to the public. NALP recently became a foreign organization member of the U.S. based National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc.

  44. [...] because they lack evidence to back up claims for clinical efficacy. The BCA responded by suing Singh for libel. In the English court system the person being sued for libel is essentially guilty until proven [...]

  45. [...] more information on the case, you can read these posts by Steven Novella on Science-Based Medicine here and here.  For a more recent update on the situation, this article by Ben Goldacre of The Guardian [...]

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