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Thursday, 15 October 2009 18:39

Simon Singh given leave to appeal

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In the long-running libel case against the Chiropractic community in the United Kingdom, the well-known popular science broadcaster Simon Singh has been granted leave to appeal the preliminary ruling against him.

On Saturday April 28th 2008, Simon Singh published an article in The Guardian newspaper called "Beware the Spinal Trap."  This was a concisely written summary of the current research concluding that many of the claims made by the Chiropractic community were unfounded.

The British Chiropractic Association (obviously) took exception to the article - specifically the use of the word 'bogus' to describe many of their treatments.

If readers are interested, a 'redacted' version of the article is available here.  For obvious legal reasons iTWire is not going to link to the original article, but should readers desire, it is not difficult to find.

The case centred around the single word 'bogus,' with the BCA succeeding in their argument that Singh used the word to suggest deliberate deception.  Thus he was guilty of libel.

Mr Justice Eady, who presided over the original court action seems to have ruled that the word 'bogus' did not simply imply that the BCA promoted ineffectual treatments, but that its members had been deliberately deceptive.  iTWire has read the original article and cannot find any light in which such malice can be reasonably interpreted from the text offered.  As we see it, a reasonable person would clearly see the word used as a simple substitute for 'false.'  

Yesterday at the Royal Courts of Justice, Singh was granted leave to appeal Mr Justice Eady's preliminary ruling.  In the judgement, Lord Justice Laws said "There is no dispute that [Simon's original article] is in the public interest, with no suspicion of malice and there is no question of good faith."

Quoted elsewhere, Simon Singh said "We have only won leave to appeal. Now we must convince the court of appeal on the issue of meaning. There is a long battle ahead. Reform of English libel laws, particularly the right to a public interest defence and a fairer costs structure, are vital."

Much of Singh's Guardian article was based on material drawn from his book "Trick or Treatment," co-authored with ex-Chiropractor and Professor of Alternative Medicine Edzard Ernst.  Oddly, the BCA has neglected to complain about this tome.  Perhaps readers should obtain a copy before they do.

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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