Science writer Simon Singh, who is currently being sued by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) went to the court of appeal on Tuesday, to challenge an earlier ruling by Justice Eady.
Index on Censorship reported that Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, England’s most senior judge, said he was “baffled” by the defamation suit – although his comments would not affect the judgement in the Court of Appeal.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said he was “troubled” by the “artificiality” of the case. “The opportunities to put this right have not been taken,” Lord Judge said.
It’s argument of fact vs comment. If Singh’s claims are deemed “comment” in the Court of Appeal, he will secure the right to use a “fair comment” defence. A date has not been set for delivery of the appeal ruling, according to Index on Censorship.
“Fair comment” was an issue raised in yesterday’s Culture, Media and Sport select committee report: the Committee acknowledged “fears of the medical and science community are well-founded” and advised the government to “take account of these concerns in a review of the country’s libel laws, in particular the issue of fair comment in academic peer-reviewed publications”. But the Libel Reform campaign, a coalition between the organisations Sense About Science, Index on Censorship and English PEN, called for a fair comment defence available to everyone, not just in academic journals:
The campaign welcomes the Committee’s acceptance of the seriousness of the problem, especially in light of the recent Simon Singh and Ben Goldacre libel cases; but has raised “concerns that ghettoising fair comment in peer reviewed journals would not have helped Simon Singh in his libel case whatsoever, it’s important that a fair comment defence is available to everyone, not just for academic discussion out of the reach of ordinary people.”