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.

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