Thursday, 1 April 2010

Good news for Simon Singh

News is breaking on Twitter that Simon Singh has won his appeal. Splendid news - here's the decision in full.

Speaking on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice, Singh described the result as "extraordinarily good news". All three appeal judges found that his assertion that there was "not a jot of evidence" that chiropractic could treat certain conditions was "a statement of opinion, and one backed by reasons". Moreover, "bogus", which Justice Eady defined as being an allegation of dishonesty on the part of the British Chiropractic Association, was "more emphatic than assertive" - in other words, merely reinforcing the idea that there was no evidence. And "happily" certainly did not mean "knowingly", as Eady had thought.

Technically, this was only a preliminary appeal hearing, but it's hard to see how the BCA's case (or Eady's reputation, for that matter) can really survive such a mauling from three of the country's most senior judges. The bottom line is, Simon Singh is entitled to express an opinion. It is not libellous to express an honest opinion.

UPDATE:

The BCA have now responded to the ruling (pdf), blaming their lawyers ("The BCA has followed its legal advice throughout the case") and reiterating that their intention was only ever to "set the record straight" and protect their reputation. Well, they've certainly succeeded there, haven't they?

On the decision to sue, the statement claims that the Guardian's offer of a right to reply was unsatisfactory because "the original libel (sic) would have remained uncorrected." Futhermore, "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 publisher." Because it was assumed that an individual would not have the will or the resources to defend a libel action, however unwarranted?

Despite the decision, the BCA is still apparently standing by Eady's definitions and the claim that Singh made "the plainest allegation of dishonesty" against them. This, of course, is what the Court of Appeal has overturned. BCA president Richard Brown concludes by saying "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." Does this mean that if they fail to gain leave, or win a final appeal, they will drop the case? It rather sounds like it.