Skeptic and journalist Simon Singh appeared before the High Court today in a hearing about accusations of libel. This case is critical for journalism, medicine, science, and skepticism, and you can get the background info on it in an earlier post I wrote. But basically, Simon was sued by the British Chiropractic Association over an article he wrote in The Guardian, and Simon has appealed, which is what today’s case was about.
His lawyer and that of the BCA presented their cases in front of three judges. According to reports by Jack of Kent and Crispian Jago (NSFW language in the latter), things went pretty well, though of course we can’t know until the judges actually rule. According to both reports, though, the judges seemed far more sympathetic to Simon’s arguments than to the BCA’s.
However, as Jack of Kent wrote:
Nonetheless, Simon may still lose: the Court of Appeal may decide that even if the High Court ruling is incorrect, it is not so incorrect that they should disturb the judgment.
In other words, it seems that they may disagree with the original ruling, but may feel it wasn’t so wrong that it’s worth the effort to overturn.
I of course hope they do. And once this case is won, we can then move on to the far, far bigger picture: reforming the UK’s horrible and draconian libel laws, which are unfair, and I think reasonable to characterize as backward and medieval. The way it’s set up, the burden of proof is on the accused to show what they said was not libel, rather than on the accuser to show that it is libel. That’s ridiculous, and what it winds up doing is making it hard for journalists to fairly write about many issues, because they may be scared of being sued and having to spend literally millions of dollars in defense.
That’s why I strongly support the reform effort.
I’ll be keeping my eyes on this, and you can stay on it as well by checking in on the blogs of Jack of Kent and Crispian Jago as well.