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 â€“ 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 â€œbogusâ€. The Honourable Mr Justice Eady, the UK’s most experienced defamation judge, agreed with the BCAâ€™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 â€˜honest opinionâ€™ 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.