Science writer Simon Singh has been granted leave to appeal against Mr Justice Eady’s decision that a piece he wrote in The Guardian was a statement of fact rather than an expression of opinion.
Singh is being sued by the British Chiropractic Association over an article which appeared in the newspaper on April 19 last year.
The association alleges that the third paragraph of the piece meant that it claims that chiropractic is effective in helping to treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, although it knows that there is absolutely no evidence to support its claims, and that by making such claims it is knowingly supporting bogus treatments.
Mr Justice Eady decided the issue of meaning at a hearing in the High Court on May 7, upholding the BCA’s pleaded meaning and saying that Mr Singh’s comments were factual assertions rather than mere expressions of opinion.
The judge said that what mattered was whether those responsible for the BCA’s claims were aware at that time that there was no evidence to support them, adding: “That is an issue capable of resolution in the light of the evidence called. In other words, it is a matter of verifiable fact.”
But yesterday the Court of Appeal gave Mr Singh permission to appeal against that decision.
The case has sparked calls for a radical reform of defamation law.
The charity Sense About Science has launched a petition for law reform which has been signed by thousands of people – the charity argues that that people should be able to indulge in critical evaluation of scientific evidence without falling foul of laws intended to protect reputation.