Chiropractic Association drops Simon Singh libel claim

The British Chiropractic Association has admitted defeat in its defamation battle with science writer Simon Singh.

The BCA yesterday served notice of discontinuance of its action against Singh following the Court of Appeal overturning an earlier ruling that would have restricted his likely defence against libel.

Singh’s victory at the Court of Appeal, on 1 April, gave him the right to rely on the defence of fair comment in a libel action.

He had been accused of libel by the BCA over an opinion piece he wrote in The Guardian, in April 2008, in which he suggested there was a lack of evidence for the claims some chiropractors make on treating certain childhood conditions.

Singh’s article had appeared on a page marked “Comment and Debate” in The Guardian in April 2008.

In it, he criticised chiropractic and the BCA’s claims that its members could help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying “even though there is not a jot of evidence”.

He had added: “This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.”

The BCA alleged that Singh, in effect, had accused its leaders of knowingly supporting bogus treatments.

In a preliminary ruling at the High Court in May last year, Justice Eady held that Singh’s comments were factual assertions rather than expressions of opinion – which meant he could not use the defence of fair comment.

Earlier this month, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley ruled that Eady had “erred in his approach” and allowed Singh’s appeal.

The Singh case has become a cause celebre for science journalism and prompted calls for reforms to the defamation law to keep it out of scientific disputes.

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