Science writer wins key legal battle

We can all breathe a little easier, here on TG Daily – we can now write what we think with a little less fear of being chucked in a British slammer.

For those of you that don’t know, a rather alarming battle has been going on for over a year between British science writer Simon Singh and a bunch of chiropractors.

Back in 2008, Singh wrote an article in the Guardian newspaper in which he suggested – wait for it – that waving your hands around near a sick child wouldn’t actually cure colic or asthma. The words he used were that the British Chiropractice Association (BCA) “happily promotes bogus treatments.”

But, boy, was that a bad move. The British Chiropractic Association promptly accused him of libel.

And, amazingly, they had a fair run at it for a while. The High Court ruled that Singh had been expressing ‘fact’ not ‘opinion’ and that he could not therefore use the defence that his words were ‘fair comment’.

But now, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley have ruled that the previous decision was wrong, and that Singh should be allowed to use the ‘fair comment’ defence.

The BCA has vowed to fight on. “We are of course disappointed to lose the appeal, but 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,” says president Richard Brown.

“Our original argument remains that our reputation has been damaged. To reiterate, the BCA brought this claim only to uphold its good name and protect its reputation, honesty and integrity.”

Singh has apparently spent over £200,000 so far defending the case – and we’re all jolly glad he has. Losing could make it very difficult for science journalists or academic publications to engage in any sort of scientific debate.