The Court of Appeal has ruled that science writer Simon Singh can rely on the fair comment defence in a libel action being brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA).
In May last year Mr Justice Eady rejected the argument, ruling that Singh’s (pictured) article, which has been published in The Guardian’s opinion pages in April 2008, should be considered as fact.
The article, Eady J ruled, contained “the plainest allegation of dishonesty and indeed it accuses them [the BCA] of thoroughly disreputable conduct”.
The ruling sparked outrage for appearing to impose yet another restriction on freedom of speech and attempting to curb the freedoms of writers who dared to question the norm.
The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley today ruled the High Court judge had “erred in his approach” and overturned the decision.
In a statement the BCA said it was considering whether to appeal that decision through the Supreme Court.
BCA president Richard Brown said: “We are of course disappointed to lose the appeal, but this is not the end of the road and we’re considering whether to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and subsequently proceed to trial.
“Our original argument remains that our reputation has been damaged. To reiterate, the BCA brought this claim only to uphold its good name and protect its reputation, honesty and integrity”.
Bryan Cave associate Robert Dougans, who acted for Singh, said: “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.”
Bryan Cave associate Robert Dougans instructed 5 Raymond Building’s Adrienne Page QC to act for Singh.
Doughty Street’s Heather Rogers QC has been instructed by Collyer Bristow partner Rhory Robertson to act for the BCA.