Apr 15 2010

Simon Singh Has Won

I have been following the libel case by the British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh on this blog, so it is a pleasure to report that the BCA has dropped their case – Simon Singh has won. The Guardian reports that the BCA filed a discontinuation with the court yesterday.

Congratulations to Simon – this is a huge victory. It comes on the heals of him winning his appeal regarding the defintion of “bogus” and whether or not his statements were commentary or fact. Simon won the ability to defend his statements as opinion, which doomed BCAs case, so it is no surprise they are now dropping the case.

What remains to be seen is how much money Simon can recoup from the BCA for legal costs. Even in a best case scenario, he stands to lose a lot of money and two years of his life fighting this case.

But Simon realized that the bigger issue are the libel laws in England themselves, that allowed such a case to go forward and to be so ruinously expensive. In the last two years he has led the fight to reform English libel laws, and this fight will continue. Simon did use his case to raise awareness of the issues. The Guardian reports:

In their ruling on the case, Lord Justice Judge, Lord Justice Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley: “It is now nearly two years since the publication of the offending article. It seems unlikely that anyone would dare repeat the opinions expressed by Dr Singh for fear of a writ.

“Accordingly this litigation has almost certainly had a chilling effect on public debate which might otherwise have assisted potential patients to make informed choices about the possible use of chiropractic.”

That is exactly the point – out of control libel laws have a chilling effect on public debate.  It seems that the BCA was exploiting the laws to produce exactly that effect – which can succeed even if they lose the case, because no one wants to defend a libel case, and few have the resources to do so.

I will continue to follow the effort to reform the libel laws in England, which seems to be going well but politics can be an unpredictable arena.

24 responses so far

24 thoughts on “Simon Singh Has Won”

  1. Hubbub says:

    Simon deserves a parade.

  2. JustinWilson says:

    I’m glad it worked out for Simon and that the libel debate is ongoing, but I would have loved for him to win defending his use of the term “bogus” as fact instead of opinion. I can’t imagine how it would be practical, but I can still dream.

  3. Jim Shaver says:

    Woooooot! This is great news, and I like to think we all had a small part in righting the wrong. Congratulations to Mr. Singh!

  4. DevoutCatalyst says:

    The bacchanalia stops here. CAM has been getting a free ride for too long. Our turn to party.

  5. HHC says:

    Singh’s barrister believes he can recover the pounds well spent in this case so that out-of-pocket expenses decrease from 200,000 pounds to 20,000 pounds. This would mean that Singh’s defense cost $30,000 or $15,000 per year. Total legal time for his defense remains at approximately 6 months/2 years.
    This is a small fee for public education and key legal debate in England and Wales.

  6. ccbowers says:

    “It seems that the BCA was exploiting the laws to produce exactly that effect – which can succeed even if they lose the case, because no one wants to defend a libel case, and few have the resources to do so.”

    Maybe the BCA did everyone a favour. By exploiting the laws they (although unintended) drew attention to the inherent flaws in the laws. Not that I want to credit them for that… thanks should go to Simon.

  7. cuervo says:

    Great news indeed.
    -pedantry alert-
    Steve: ” It comes on the *heals* of him winning ”

    I know you’re a doctor but…

  8. eean says:

    I was honestly hoping that a judge would have to rule whether the chiropractic profession was a bunch of bumpkus or not at some point. Those rulings are fun to read.

    Of course I’m glad the nightmare is almost over for Singh.

  9. Dick Cheney says:

    The boy done good.

    Jack of Kent discusses the legal ramifications as well as recovery of costs here:


  10. daedalus2u says:

    eean, I think that is exactly why the BCA withdrew their lawsuit. All they have lost now is money and a bit of bad publicity. If the court had ruled that chiropractic was bogus, they would have lost a lot more.

  11. anandamide says:

    This is indeed a brialliant result – but as you saym the fight goes on.

    If people haven’t already done so, please sign the petition to reform England’s libel laws – these laws affect everyone, in England and beyond.


  12. jaranath says:

    The BCA’s statement is a textbook sour-grapes notpology. Apparently, Simon’s repeated public insistence that he didn’t intend to say the BCA were lying somehow “vindicates their position.” Um…wasn’t their position that he DID mean they were lying…? And you gotta love the closing boast that they’d have won if they hadn’t decided drop the suit.

  13. tmac57 says:

    jaranath-“The BCA’s statement is a textbook sour-grapes notpology.”
    Nice. I love the word “notpology”, Thats new to me.
    This is great news, and I think the Skeptical community , and anyone who defends free speech, owes Simon Singh a debt of gratitude. Even those who support chiropractic, should look at the bigger picture of the dangers of using the UK court system to suppress freedom of expression. After all, it could have just as easily been turned against them as well. Well done Simon!

  14. Khym Chanur says:

    Apparently, Simon’s repeated public insistence that he didn’t intend to say the BCA were lying somehow “vindicates their position.”

    As was pointed out elsewhere, he’s been insisting that for months, but it wasn’t good enough for the BCA. At least, it wasn’t good enough for them until it became clear that they couldn’t win.

  15. Michael Kingsford Gray says:

    Time wounds all heels.

  16. Michael Kingsford Gray says:

    Oh, and the BCA’s wording was clearly a minor re-wording of a previous public suggestion by the excellent skeptical blogger, Dr Aust.




  17. HHC says:

    According to Jack of Kent, there is a dent in England’s libel case law. This really sounds to me like a ding and not a dent. So now Singh can say he made an adverse comment in the Guardian against the practices of the BCA. His comments were not clear to his reading audience, including the judges. American style slang can’t be so easily understood by less ” hip” legal professionals who take their English language skills seriously. Maybe Singh should leave his co-author to make the accurate medical statements regarding the chiropractic profession.

  18. SteveA says:

    Like JustinWilson I would have liked to see the BCA challenged on a matter of fact rather than opinion. They represent themselves as a profession offering medical treatments with proven benefits – they should have the ‘facts’ to back up these assertions.

    I know the law courts are not an appropriate arena for discussing science, but sometimes you have to make the best of what you have.

    It could have been a knockout blow.

    (Having said that, if I were in Simon’s shoes, I’d have done exactly what he did – I don’t have that kind of money either.)

    Overall this appears to be a big win. I think the headline messages the public will absorb are:

    ‘Simon Singh says homeopathy is bogus’;
    ‘Simon Singh wins case’.

    Hopefully journalistic shorthand will be working in the skeptics’ favour for a change.

  19. BillyJoe7 says:

    “(Having said that, if I were in Simon’s shoes, I’d have done exactly what he did – I don’t have that kind of money either.)”

    Actually the BCA threw in the towel, not SS

  20. Dick Cheney says:

    Fortunately for him, Simon Singh is able to afford the insane costs of defending himself against libel action.

  21. Joe says:

    The BCA statement http://www.chiropractic-uk.co.uk/gfx/uploads/textbox/Singh/BCA%20Statement%2015th%20April%202010.pdf says they accept Simon’s word that he never meant to accuse them of fraud. I wonder if they accept his further explanation that they are ill-informed.

  22. jwlbailey says:

    How do these guys sleep at night? (cognitive dissonance I guess). Really looking forward to the rogues reaction on the next SGU podcast especially Rebecca’s. It’s funny that Simon Singh did an interview on For Good Reason two days before this press release came out. I hope he gets knighted.

  23. daniel.oliveira says:

    That’s Science 2 x Pseudoscience 1
    Congratulations, Simon!
    Steve, thanks for keeping us up to date.

  24. HHC says:

    BCA discontinued the legal action. Their point was that Singh’s comments could be interpreted as libelous. Legally, they did succeed with their initial interpretation. Their legal cost for public relations was estimated to be $300,000. Also, there was the public removal of an inferior advertising pamphlet for chiropractic care. This doesn’t mean Simon Singh has won. He has earned the right to make adverse comments according to the British court and defend them. He’s lost $300,000 for this process and his lack of written “clarity”. But all the writings on this post indicate that he truly meant what he said. Then we can say he is merely posturing for purposes of the lawsuit to avoid further costs of defense for his hostile, dismissive comments.

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