Friday, 12 February 2010

Singh it loud, Singh it clear

Last summer I posted about Simon Singh’s court battle with the British Chiropractic Association. In an article in the Guardian, Singh was critical of unsubstantiated claims by chiropractic practitioners for its effectiveness in treating ailments far distant from bone and joint problems. The BCA did not respond with rational arguments to back up their claims but rather, sued Singh for libel and initiated a purging of their websites and public literature. This alone says much.

The UK’s libel law places the requirement for proof on Singh to demonstrate his claim of ‘bogus’ vs the BCA’s claim of effectiveness.

Singh is a single individual, chiropractic in the UK is huge. Surely such an organisation would not run scared from the truth? In the interests of their patients would they not be willing to examine their practices for the benefit of all? It seems not, and something is wrong when the law places corporate interests above the common good.

The libel laws themselves, in the UK, need to be re-examined.

If you are a blogger based in the UK go sign this petition. If you are outside the UK, sign it anyway to register your concern. It will not give you the right to slag things off as you wish, but it may go part way towards enabling your freedom of expression.

Asking for scientific evidence should not make you a defendant in court.


Duncanr said...

The difference between the libel law as it operates in UK and the USA, as I understand it, is this -

Suppose I call you a ‘wanker’ and you think that defames your character so sue me for libel.

Under UK libel law, you need do nothing - it is up to me to prove you are a wanker

Under USA libel law, I need do nothing - it is up to you to prove you are NOT a wanker

In other words, UK libel law assumes the person claiming to be libeled is innocent until proved guilty, whereas USA libel law assumes the person libeled is guilty until proved innocent.

Of the two, I would rather live subject to UK libel laws than the USA !!!

Having said that, there is no doubt that powerful individuals/companies/organisations have misused the UK libel law to stifle awkward but legitimate debate/questions about their behaviour/practices - as seems to have happened here in the case of Simon Singh

Andy Holroyd said...

Duncan, you read the law the same as I do. Between peers the system no doubt works well, but where the two sides are unequal it is clearly open to abuse. It is here where I would like to see reform.