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Judgment in Simon Singh libel case

The judgment in science writer Simon Singh’s appeal in his libel case with the British Chiropractic Association was handed down at the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday 1st April.

The judgment stated that the appeal must be allowed.

Simon after judgementSimon, Tracey, Robert after judgement

Simon Singh has been fighting his case for two years and has already spent £200,000. The case could cost £1 million and Singh will never recover all his costs. He said: “It is ridiculous that it has cost £200,000 to establish the meaning of a handful of words. I am delighted that my meaning has been vindicated by three of the most powerful judges in the country, and I relish the opportunity to defend this meaning in court. However, I am still angry that libel is so horrendously expensive. That is just one of the reasons why the battle for libel reform must continue.”

See Simon’s complete statement

Robert Dougans, Associate at Bryan Cave LLP and Singh’s lawyer, said: I’m very pleased that the Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of Dr. Singh. We have all worked very hard in this case and the appeal, and it is a wonderful feeling to win such a resounding victory before such an impressive court. Scientists have been - rightly - concerned about the consequences they might face if opponents seek to counter their arguments with a libel claim rather than by engaging in debate and research. The Court of Appeal’s brave decision today gives hope that important research on scientific matters will be protected against libel threats, and will hopefully make people think again before embarking on legal action hoping to shut down debate. It is clear from the judgment that the Court of Appeal is not satisfied with the current state of English libel laws, and recognises the absurdities and injustices that can result from them as they currently stand. Whilst this decision should not obscure the urgent need for libel reform, I am very glad that Simon has received such good news.”

Tracey Brown, Sense About Science: Until we have a public interest defence we will see more cases like this. It is ludicrous that something that should be as straight forward as knowing whether your words are defensible should be so complicated to establish.”

Jonathan Heawood, English PEN: “The appeal judges described the Singh trial as ‘a surprising consequence of laws designed to protect reputation’. Libel law is simply not fit for purpose. The question is not WHETHER to reform the law, but WHEN.”

Allen Green, writer of the 2010 Orwell Prize Longlisted Blog “Jack of Kent”: “It has taken nearly two years and thousands of pounds for Simon to prevail today.  His victory is cheering, but for him to have got here has been a complex, depressing, and obscenely expensive journey.  This is not an example of the English libel laws working.  Instead it is a horrifying example of how bad they really are.  For him to have to struggle to win in this way signals the urgent need for libel reform”.

Mark Lewis, Lawyer for cardiologist Dr Peter Wilmshurst: “This is not a victory it is a milestone in a journey that should never have started. Whilst it is very pleasing that the judges have applied the law in a way that allows common sense to prevail it just points the way for the long trek to continue. It is not the outcome of the case that is important it is the fact that the case started at all. Libel law is to protect reputations not to stifle scientific debate.”

Dr Evan Harris MP, the Liberal Democrat MP who has led the cross-party Parliamentary campaign for reform: “This sensible judgement is no substitute for fundamental law reform. It is no kind of justice for a scientist to spend £200,000 and 2 years of his life just to get half-way through a case. The political parties must now all commit to reform of the law to free scientific speech and responsible journalism from the threat of penury.”

Media coverage:

BBC Online Science writer Simon Singh wins libel appeal

The Guardian Simon Singh wins libel court battle

The Daily Telegraph Science writer Simon Singh wins Court of Appeal libel battle

The Lawyer Court of Appeal overturns Eady J libel decision

BBC Radio The World at One

Reuters Science writer wins “fair comment” libel appeal

The Guardian Simon Singh’s ‘resounding victory’ raises hope of libel reform