Science writer Singh wins libel case appeal

By staff

Science writer Simon Singh has won a court battle with the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) today.

He will be allowed to use a defence of fair comment in a libel case brought against him by the BCA.

Mr Singh had been sued by the association over an article which appeared in The Guardian newspaper last April, where he suggested that claims by some chiropractors to be able to treat childhood asthma and colic lacked evidence.

The BCA said this was defamatory; and suggested leaders knowingly supported bogus treatments.

In a preliminary ruling last year at the High Court Singh’s words were taken to be expressions of fact, not opinion, denying him the defence of fair comment.

That was overturned today in the on appeal by Dr Singh.

He described the ruling as ‘brilliant’ but added: “This action had cost £200,000 just to define the meaning of a few words.

“After two years of battling in this libel case, at last we’ve got a good decision. So instead of battling uphill we’re fighting with the wind behind us.

“The Court of Appeal’s made a very wise decision, but it just shouldn’t be so horrendously expensive for a journalist or an academic journal or a scientist to defend what they mean.

“That’s why people back off from saying what they really mean.”

Coalition for Libel Reform spokeswoman Tracey Brown said: “This case has brought out of the woodwork the fact that so many other discussions are being killed, from discussions of cardiology to human rights to medicines.

“We’re now pushing ahead for bigger changes to the law so that we have the kind of public interest defence that means it wouldn’t have taken two years and £200,000 to find out whether Simon can defend himself.”

The BCA said that it was disappointed but it would consider continuing with its action.

President Richard Brown said: “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. The BCA brought this claim only to uphold its good name and protect its reputation, honesty and integrity”.