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For the back story to this photograph have a look at Suppressing science, A victory for Simon Singh and BCA libels Simon Singh? For the article that upset the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) see Beware the Spinal Trap. Better still, have a look at the original article which is now back up on the Guardian web site.

Simon Singh with 2-week old son Hari – like the T-shirt

Twitter erupted with messages of congratulations last night when news started coming through that the BCA had thrown in the towel. This has been  a high profile case which has highlighted the danger of UK libel laws to science journalists and others.  But as Hari’s T-shirt, and the story below from The Libel Reform campaign (BCA drop libel case against Simon Singh) show this isn’t over yet. There will be legal action to recover costs and the libel laws have to be changed:

The British Chiropractic Association has today dropped its libel case with science writer Simon Singh. This follows the Court of Appeal ruling on 1st April that Singh’s article on chiropractic was comment not fact.

Simon Singh has been fighting his case for two years and has spent more than 200,000 pounds. He will never recover all his costs. He said: ’It still staggers me that the British Chiropractic Association and half the chiropractors in the UK were making unsubstantiated claims. It still baffles me that the BCA then dared to sue me for libel and put me through two years of hell before I was vindicated.  And it still makes me angry that our libel laws not only tolerate but also encourage such ludicrous libel suits. English libel law is so intimidating, so expensive, so hostile to serious journalists that it has a chilling effect on all areas of debate, silencing scientists, journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and everyone else who dares to tackle serious matters of public interest. In the area of medicine alone, fear of libel means that good research is not always published because those with vested interests might sue, and bad research that should be withdrawn is not pulled because the authors might sue the journal, and in both cases it is the public that loses out because the truth is never exposed. My victory does not mean that our libel laws are okay, because I won despite the libel laws – we still have the most notoriously anti-free speech libel laws in the free world.’

Simon Singh:’The good news is that all three main parties this week committed to a libel reform bill in the next Parliament. But libel reform has to be radical. Cutting costs by a half means that a trial will not cost 1 million pounds but cost 500,000 pounds, but this is still extortionate. Costs need to be cut by a factor of 10 at least. Moreover the current libel law still means that libel tourists can sue in London on spurious grounds, big companies can still bully lone journalists, we still lack a robust public interest defence and we still have an unfair burden of proof on writers. It is important to remember that another libel case involving medicine continues – Dr Peter Wilmshurst is a consultant cardiologist who is being sued for libel for raising serious concerns about the data relating to a new heart device. If Dr Wilmshurst loses his case then he will be bankrupted. It is ridiculous that a respected researcher such as Dr Wilmshurst, someone who has devoted his life to medicine, should be put under such pressure just for speaking his mind. Our libel laws discourage doctors, scientists and journalists from speaking out. It is only when Peter has hopefully defended his libel case that I will be able to celebrate. It is only when English libel law has been reformed that I will be able enjoy today’s victory. Unless our libel laws change urgently and radically, I will not be the last journalist hauled through the libel courts and who will have to face financial disaster and two years of hell simply for raising an important and valid matter of public interest.’

Simon Singh:’One of the good things to come out of the last two years is that the chiropractic profession has been put under intense scrutiny. One in four chiropractors in the UK is now being investigated for making allegedly misleading claims, the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled against many chiropractic claims and the British Chiropractic Association has removed many claims from its website. None of this would have happened if I had backed down and the BCA has successfully silenced my article.’

Simon Singh:’The case is not quite over, because we still have to argue over costs. Having backed down and dropped the case, I expect the British Chiropractic Association to pay my legal bill of 200,000 pounds. I fully expect the BCA to argue that they should not pay all my costs, but I think it is the very least that they should do because this entire legal battle has been instigated by the BCA. I will never get back the two years that I have wasted on this case when I should have been writing a new book and I will never get back all the time I should have had with friends and family, which instead was replaced with continual stress, anxiety and ridiculously tedious legal documents. Fortunately the case has ended when my son Hari is only three weeks old, so I can now relax and enjoy being a father. My wife is a journalist and she been fully supportive throughout, and without her backing and the support of family, friends, scientists, bloggers and many others I suspect I would not have had the morale to keep fighting this case until the end.’

See also:
A pivotal moment for free speech in Britain
British Chiropractic Association drops shameful libel case against science writer who criticised them
British Chiropractors’ Association drops case against Simon Singh
Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine

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