Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Simon Singh wins the right to a full appeal: UPDATED

Simon Singh was granted the right to a full appeal at the Courts of Justice this morning by the presiding Judge, Justice Laws, in the on-going libel case started by the British Chiropractors Association.

The judge overturned*, the original judgment by Justice Eady on Simon's use of the word 'bogus' in a Guardian article to describe claims by chiropractors to treat certain childhood illnesses. He said that there was no question of the good faith of the appellant (Simon) who wrote what he honestly believed with the purpose of serving the public interest. *[Edit: not overturned, but effectively reversed]

Laws also questioned whether Eady's ruling could have serious implications for the application of Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, which concerns freedom of expression, and said that there was a disproportionate burden of proof on the appellant.

He also commented that the 47 pages of written evidence presented in Simon's defence were on the 'voluminous' side.

The BCA, who were informed of the decision in advance, did not show up.

Simon's case will now go to full appeal, probably in the spring - just in time for the next Chiropratic Awareness Week.

I was there representing the National Secular Society, which defends freedom of expression and evidence-based rationalism.

After the hearing we all re-convened at the pub for a celebration.

The full legal details can be found at Jack of Kent's blog.

Update: The BCA's response.

Update: A fuller response from the chiromancers (sorry, chiropractors):

Dr. Simon Singh has been granted permission to appeal against the decision of Mr. Justice Eady. As the Claimant is not permitted to be represented in a hearing of this nature, the Judge of the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Laws, did not have the benefit of being able to consider all the issues, nor indeed, has he heard any argument from the BCA.

Dr. Singh has used this case as a platform to argue that science writers should be immune from the law of libel and be free to write what they please.
[No he hasn't] Ever since the Eady decision of 7th May 2009, he has engaged in a high profile media campaign to assert that the BCA's action is a restriction of the freedom of speech. It is nothing of the sort.

The BCA supportes and would never seek to stifle legitimate open scientific debate
[legitimate meaning 'not critical of the BCA'?] . However, this action is actually a simple libel claim based on the fact that the BCA was maliciously attacked by Dr. Singh in the Guardian newspaper. When given the opportunity to retract his words and apologise, Dr. Singh refused. This claim has been brought to restore the good reputation of the BCA and that of its members.[Good luck with that]

Dr. Singh may now put his case before a full Court of Appeal. Here the BCA will, for the first time, have the opportunity to present its case. The BCA remains confident that once in possession of all the facts the presiding judges will refuse the Appeal.

And comment on it here.

And an excellent article by Allen Green (Jack of Kent's alter ego) here.

Update: The BCA has now changed its press release to remove the possibly libellous accusation. The words 'maliciously attacked' (in bold above) have been replaced by 'libelled'. They have now pretty much run out of feet to shoot themselves in.


  1. "The judge overturned the original judgment by Justice Eady..."

    Well, not quite - he's given Simon permission to argue the case before the Court of Appeal, who could then overturn the judgment (or not).

  2. I wasn't sure about the terminology, which is why I've referred people to Jack of Kent's blog as he'll be more accurate.