ScienceSkepticism

Simon Singh Wins Appeal; BCA Releases Statement

This morning, the appeals court ruled that Simon Singh can defend his article about the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) as “fair comment,” meaning that he can argue that he was making an opinionated statement, as opposed to being forced to argue that his words meant something defined by a high court judge – a definition Singh did not agree to. The full judgment is here (PDF).

The BCA has released a statement, which I will sum up here:

“We’re not trying to stamp on free speech and scientific debate. We’re just bankrupting Simon Singh until he stops criticizing us and goes away. Yes, The Guardian offered us the opportunity to publicly defend our claims with science, but that’s absurd – we don’t have any science to defend our claims.

“We know that at this point pretty much everyone thinks we’re a bunch of shit heads, but that’s because we were following our lawyers’ advice! And even though we’ll continue to look like bigger shit heads the longer we keep this charade going, we’re prepared to drag this out for years. After all, if we’re going to singlehandedly destroy the chiropractic industry, we’re going to take Simon Singh down with us. Because that’s exactly the kind of shit heads we are.”

I’m surprised they didn’t mention in their press release that they want to bill Simon for the time they spent dealing with the activists who have been inspired to take down chiropractorss making fraudulent claims. Don’t worry, BCA, this totally won’t change our opinion of you. We already know you’re a bunch of shit heads.

Their full, unedited statement follows after the jump.

More media information from Carl Courtney on 07785397321  1st April 2010
Statement from the British Chiropractic Association regarding the BCA vs Simon Singh
Commenting on the Court of Appeal ruling allowing the Appeal by Simon Singh, Richard Brown, President of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA), said:

“The case against Dr Singh has always been simply to set the record straight and correct what the BCA considered were libellous comments by Simon Singh in the Guardian. Originally we asked Dr. Singh for a retraction and an apology and he declined. The Guardian subsequently offered a right of reply but this fell short of our expectations, not least of which because the original libel would have remained uncorrected. Having reached stalemate and feeling our reputation had been tarnished we sought legal advice which unambiguously indicated that in order to get an appropriate apology and retraction, a writ needed to be served.

The same advice was that this was best achieved by directing the action against the author rather than the newspaper. The BCA has followed its legal advice throughout this case. The motivation for this action was always to clear our good name, particularly in respect of the implication that we acted dishonestly. It never was, and it is still not our intention, to curb freedom of speech, whether in the field of scientific
research or elsewhere, although sadly we recognise that this is how it has been portrayed by Dr. Singh and his supporters”.

The BCA brought the case because in his article Dr Singh made a serious attack on the reputation of the BCA, which stated in print and on-line, that the Association “….happily promotes bogus treatments”. In May 2009 Mr Justice Eady, one of the country’s leading libel judges, agreed with the BCA’s interpretation of the article. He ruled that Dr Singh had made the “plainest allegation of dishonesty”. Today the Court
of Appeal ruled, by virtue of their interpretation, that the words published were “comments” or “opinions” and not allegations of fact.

The BCA is considering its position in the light of the ruling. Richard Brown concluded “We are of course disappointed to lose the appeal, but this is not the end of the road and we are considering whether to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and subsequently proceed to trial. Our original argument remains that our reputation has been damaged. To reiterate, the BCA brought this claim only to uphold its good name and protect its reputation, honesty and integrity”.

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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24 Comments

  1. Thank whatever entity you want to thank, that judgement is the best bit of prose I have seen in two years on this issue.
    Milton had it right, to show us poor Gallileo’s predicament. What a brilliant quotation!

  2. “the BCA brought this claim only to uphold its good name and protect its reputation, honesty and integrity”.

    Problem being that the reason Simon wrote his piece in the first place was because of the perceived lack of reputation, honesty and integrity within the BCA.

    It’s kind of gone tits up for them right now, hasn’t it?

  3. I love how, at issue is not the lack of efficacy of chiropractic, rather whether the BCA is aware of its inefficacy. They’ve basically already stipulated the former. “Honest, your honour, we didn’t know what we were doing was a load of crap…”

  4. “The case against Dr Singh has always been simply to set the record straight and
    correct what the BCA considered were libellous comments by Simon Singh in the
    Guardian.”

    Really? Then why didn’t they take the opportunity to “set the record straight” by taking The Guardian’s offer to write a response in the paper?

  5. I sincerely hope the BCA follows through with the lawsuit. I know it will cost Simon time, money, and heartache but I think open court testimony has been very kind to the skeptical movement so far. The very idea that a judge may read a decision from the bench along the lines of “Homeopathy is bollocks” would give me the biggest truth-gasm!

  6. as long as the BCA continues to reap what they sow and the courts continue to see the reality of the situation, I’m fine with their quixotic tilting. If the cases against chiropracters advertising bogus and illegal treatments go through, that’ll just prove simon right.

  7. @SkepLit: I need to apologize to Dr. Singh. I should have said “Chiropracty is bollocks” in my previous comment. I’m sure our illustrious science writer will eventually get around to being sued by the homeopaths…

  8. I like that they quoted an American court decision (Underwager v Salter 22 Fed . “Scientific controversies must be settled by the methods of science rather than by the methods of litigation. … More papers, more discussion, better data, and more satisfactory models – not larger awards of damages – mark the path towards superior understanding of the world around us.” It is really interesting when such divergent common law regimes cite each other.

  9. @SkepLit: Except that chiropractic is *not* bollocks. There are absurd claims made by some chiropractors about what chiropractic can do but it works well for many skeletal issues (and some muscular issues). There is a reason that most money-grubbing insurance companies in the US do cover chiropractic.

  10. @wilcoxon: How about mostly or nearly all bullocks and quackery at its fundamental core and essence? There are spontaneous recoveries of many conditions that chiropractic gets credit for and some chiropractors engage in physical therapy techniques which have evidence based scientific merit. If you want someone who believes in a 19th century fantasy known as subluxations adjusting your neck and spine then by all means have at it, that does not mean it’s not quackery and bullocks.

  11. @wilcoxon: I’m willing to amend my comment to read “the claims of chiropractors are bollocks”. I’m cool with that. That allows for the coincidental perceived improvement of symptoms while making it clear that the purported mechanism of action is magic.

  12. I think ‘shit head’ should be hyphenated as it is a compound adjective composed of an adjective preceding a noun: as in “That’s a shit-head chiropractor”. But I suppose if you were employing it as a noun phrase you could make a case for no hyphen; as in “that chiropractor is a shit head”. Certainly no hyphen is required when employed as the subject following a past participle, as in “That chiropractor gives shit head,” although you might want to wear a condom as you don’t know where they’ve been.

  13. “…The BCA has released a statement, which I will sum up here:…”

    LoL! Ahh.. if only modern journalism could be so insightful in its reporting of these things. I can just picture in my mind the following –
    ” Leading news tonight: Earthquake in China kills thousands and results in massive property damage; The offensive in Afghanistan has met unexpected resistance but reports from the area indicate increased stability in secured areas; and the latest scientific studies indicate that homeopathy is shit, and that chiropractors are mostly all delusional dushbags. Full stories and news, tonight at Nine.”

    ;)

    That, and YAY FOR SIMON. :) I think this is news we can all be happy about.

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