Science

BREAKING: Simon Singh Has Won!

Simon Singh‘s long, costly battle against the British Chiropractic Association has finally ended with the BCA dropping their lawsuit as of this morning:

The BCA today served a Notice of Discontinuance bringing to an end its ill-fated libel claim against Dr Simon Singh arising out of criticisms he made of its promotion of treatments for childhood ailments.

Dr Singh’s predicament as the sole defendant in an action brought in respect of a comment piece in the Guardian newspaper (to which the BCA never directed any complaint) was seen as a rallying point for those concerned about the abuse of UK libel laws in connection with scientific debate.

Interest intensified when Eady J ruled that his words were not comment and that in order to defend himself he would have to prove the objective truth of what he wrote.

Earlier this month the Court of Appeal overturned that ruling and this has lead the BCA to abandon its claim.

William McCormick QC acted for Dr Singh instructed by Robert Dougans of Bryan Cave LLP.

IANAL, but I believe this means the BCA will be forced to pay Simon’s legal costs. Unfortunately, past cases have shown that this is often a battle in and of itself, as the “winning” team is forced to justify every penny. Full recovery of costs is not the norm.

Congratulations to Simon on a well-earned victory, and enormous thanks for going through an intense ordeal. He’s inspired many people to take up a few worth causes: changing libel laws so that free speech and criticism is protected, and fighting chiropractors who happily promote bogus treatments.

UPDATE: Here’s the BCA’s statement (PDF)

BCA V SIMON SINGH – PRESS STATEMENT – 15th APRIL 2010
Having carefully considered its position in the light of the judgment of the Court of Appeal (1st April 2010), the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has decided to discontinue its libel action against Simon Singh.

As previously made clear, the BCA brought the claim because it considered that Simon Singh had made a serious allegation against its reputation, namely, that the BCA promoted treatments that it knew to be “bogus”. The Honourable Mr Justice Eady, the UK’s most experienced defamation judge, agreed with the BCA’s interpretation of the article and ruled that it made a serious factual allegation of dishonesty.

The Court of Appeal, in its recent judgment, has taken a very different view of the article. On its interpretation, the article did not make any factual allegation against the BCA at all; it was no more than an expression of ‘honest opinion’ by Simon Singh. While it still considers that the article was defamatory of the BCA, the decision provides Dr Singh with a defence such that the BCA has taken the view that it should withdraw to avoid further legal costs being incurred by either side.

As those who have followed the publicity surrounding this case will know, Simon Singh has said publicly that he had never intended to suggest that the BCA had been dishonest. The BCA accepts this statement, which goes some way to vindicating its position.

The BCA takes seriously its duty and responsibilities to members and to chiropractic patients. The BCA has considered seeking leave to take this matter to the Supreme Court and has been advised there are strong grounds for appeal against the Court of Appeal judgment. However, while it was right to bring this claim at the outset, the BCA now feels that the time is right for the matter to draw to a close.

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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33 Comments

  1. I believe a loud and excessively long WOOT!! is in order. Excuse me for a second

    WOOOOOOOOOTTTTT!!!!!!

    I personally would have liked to have seen this go to trial and have chiropractics name dragged through the mud, but considering the costs and the uncertain outcome I’m glad it’s over.

  2. It makes me extremely happy that the BCA caused so much more harm to themselves by suing him than the article they sued over ever could have done.

    Now I hope he recovers most of the cost through the legal system, and makes up the rest and more by writing an awesome book on the subject.

  3. This is very exciting news! This is a great victory for skepticism, but don’t forget that it also means we’ll get one of the best writers out there should soon be able to write again!

  4. Congratulations to Simon. There’s going to be a lot more hard work to finally get this thing properly finished, but this is an important victory.

    We need to keep up momentum for the campaign for libel reform now, to stop this happening to anyone else.

  5. This is brilliant news! It’s brightened up what was otherwise an unbearably irritating day at work. Now I’m grinning like an idiot.

    Many congrats to Simon.

    Many ‘lols’ to the BCA.

  6. *EXHALES*

    Okay, let’s reform English libel laws now!

    *INHALES*

    (EDIT: I realised that this makes me sound like I am not excited. I SO AM. I am also relieved and looking forward to the continued libel law conversation.)
    (EDIT: GO TEAM SIMON)

  7. As says all others: congrats.

    However…“…Singh has said publicly that he had never intended to suggest that the BCA had been dishonest.”

    He might have never meant to suggest that, but I bet he believes it.

  8. Hooooooray! The Bullies and Cowards Association have been made an example of. After all that, they only wasted money, drew further attention to criticism of them, made themselves look like assholes and inspired the skeptical community to retaliate by reporting specific bogus claims and getting 25% of UK chiros investigated. Libel laws need to be changed but you at least have to think this will make people think twice before picking on our champions of science and reason like Simon. Simon Singh = Hero.

  9. Great news, congrats, Simon. Now after all this coverage, the same article could be written and he could say they knowingly provide treatments that don’t work. I would find it hard to believe that any chiropractor in the UK would not know of the lack of evidence of some of their treatments.

  10. My gosh!! When I read this one, I yelled so loud that my boss came out of his office with one of those looks only bosses can give.

    Congrats to Dr. Singh and thanx Rebecca for making an otherwise awful day a great one!!

  11. Notice how they refer back to the now discredited Eady Judgement, and say that HE thought they were right.
    “The Honourable Mr Justice Eady, the UK’s most experienced defamation judge, agreed with the BCA’s interpretation of the article and ruled that it made a serious factual allegation of dishonesty.”

    Yes, well, he was wrong, wasn’t he? The BCA are happily promoting a bogus ruling.

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