ScienceSkepticism

Libel Reform Blocked In England

Last night MP Tom Watson tweeted that he helped block libel reform despite believing it is needed. The issue at hand was an important changed needed to bring defamation lawsuits into line with those of other developed nations: reducing the amount of money that “no win, no fee” lawyers can collect from 100% (double their fee) to 10%. Currently, defamation lawsuits in England and Wales are approximately 140 times more expensive than the average defamation lawsuit in other European countries.

On the topic of libel reform, Simon Singh appears back in court tomorrow morning to hear whether or not his appeal has been granted. If he fails, he’ll have to go to fight court.

And on the topic of free speech, enjoy this pithy but powerful statement from Philip Pullman regarding his right to piss you off:

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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11 Comments

  1. Great. Good to know that England has the same kind of ignorant, backwards, obstructionist, asshat politicians that America does. Lovely to see this proof that people are just people everywhere. Especially the stupid ones. *sigh*

    Awesome video clip though. :) And I hope Simon knows we are all behind him on this. I’m looking forward to hearing what the outcome of this latest stage is for him.

    Does anyone know how he, (Simon), is doing monetarily right now in dealing with all the court cost?

  2. Great clip of Philip Pullman.

    I’ve been a big fan ever since my son and I read “His Dark Materials”, a great book and one which promoted our atheist cause well. It’s the mainstreaming of atheist ideas like this that will ultimately triumph because logic and reason fails to work on so many people. Well written secular or atheistic entertainment does so much more. We need a thousand more Pullmans.

    Oh, and best of luck to the Libel Reform Movement. It’s never good when the law stands against truth.

    Blessed Atheist Bible Study @ http://blessedatheist.com/

  3. @MoltenHotMagma: My understanding is that Simon is in a fortunate position financially, so is able to meet the costs. However, it doesn’t matter how rich a defendant is, it’s still insane to have to pay excessive amounts to defend a libel suit, particularly as in the UK, you are guilty til proven innocent.

  4. I read some about this after I saw all the tweets a little while ago. I have concluded that I do not understand the British legislative system at all.

    This doesn’t surprise me in the least. I learned during the recent health care kerfuffle here that I do not understand the American one either.

    So if tomorrow the courts say “Mr. Singh, you are cordially invited to fuck off,” how does that change things? I don’t know anything about “fight court” because no one talks about it (HA!).

    Basically, how many more chances does Simon have before he has to write a big check and the chiropractors start their little happy dance?

  5. @phlebas: This one is a re-ruling on meaning and whether or not it was fair comment. So the judges will decide if

    a) bogus does actually mean ‘deceitful’ as the original judge ruled and

    b) whether Simon’s comments were opinion or a statement of fact.

    So if they choose poorly, then he has to go fight it out and that’s the final battle. If he loses that final battle then he writes the big cheque, although I assume there is an appeal process.

    Of course, if he wins the appeal on meaning tomorrow then the BCA have a much harder case to fight and might even take their toys and go home. But if they did withdraw, it’ll cost ’em a lot of money, so they’d be paying for their own defeat where by continuing they at least still have a chance of winning. Just depends if they want the PR crap and everything else that goes with it I guess. IANAL.

  6. @phlebas: Most people in the UK don’t understand it either. There are actually three different legal systems in the UK, one covering England and Wales (though there are laws that only apply in Wales, pretty much all to do with the Welsh language), one covering Scotland and one covering Northern Ireland. Don’t ask me the differences between the three!

    I think if Simon Singh loses his appeal tomorrow he could take his appeal to the newly set-up UK Supreme Court, but I’m not 100% sure, and could be completely wrong.

  7. Philip Pullman is awesome. I was a bookseller in an indy shop when the three His Dark Materials books were released. I got to host his author events for all three, and even badgered the publicist into letting me take him out to dinner before one of them. I learned more about writing and parenthood and life during those two hours over bad Chinese food than I ever have before or since.

  8. @KKbundy: “…I’ve been a big fan ever since my son and I read “His Dark Materials”, a great book and one which promoted our atheist cause well. …”

    I’m not an atheist and I loved the series.

    @Tracy King: “My understanding is that Simon is in a fortunate position financially, so is able to meet the costs. However, it doesn’t matter how rich a defendant is, it’s still insane to have to pay excessive amounts to defend a libel suit, particularly as in the UK, you are guilty til proven innocent.”

    *nods* I agree with you completely about the issue regarding the cost of libel in England and the backwards way that their laws work. That’s actually what I was trying to refer to with the first half of my post but must not have been clear enough.

    I’m glad to hear that Simon is managing financially. I’m a huge fan of his and the stand he is taking and have been trying to keep up with his case, but knowing the huge emotional tole and time commitment this will be putting on him I just wanted to make sure that if there was something we, as a community, could do to help him that hasn’t already been done I could be a part of it, (thus the question about his finances). I doubt I’ll even be in a position to let him know how much I appreciate what he is doing, but if there is a donation fund to help support him in dealing with the case cost I thought that might be something I could contribute to.

    @phlebas: “…So if tomorrow the courts say “Mr. Singh, you are cordially invited to fuck off,” how does that change things? I don’t know anything about “fight court” because no one talks about it (HA!). …”

    Following up on what Tracy told you, the original judge ruled that Simon basically wrote his article in a malicious manner using the word ‘bogus’ to say that the British Chiropractic Association is actively deceitful and intentionally misleads the public. Additionally, the original judge ruled that the information in Simons article was basically just his opinion. If that ruling is upheld, then it will be very difficult for Simon to prove that he was not committing libel against the British Chiropractic Association.

    For the record, Simons stated position, (and that held by everyone with half a brain who has read his article), is that he used the word ‘bogus’ to mean that the treatments didn’t do what they were claimed to do, (no judgment of active deceit was implied to me when I read it); and that his article was based upon demonstrable facts, not just opinion.

    Here is hoping that the re-ruling came down on the side of good sense and Simon this time ehh.

  9. Philip Pullman is our C.S. Lewis. (Except he’s a better writer, IMHO. And I’m even an admitted fan of Lewis’s Ransom trilogy. See? I just admitted it. But, Pullman’s still better.)

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