British Chiropractic Association v. Dr. Simon Singh

FrontRow Legal
April 20, 2010

The British Chiropractic Association has dropped its libel action against science writer, Dr. Simon Singh.

Dr. Singh was being sued by the association following comments made by him in a 2008 Guardian newspaper article about the effectiveness of chiropractic treatments.

On 15 April 2010, the web site of Ely Place Chambers, the Chambers of William McCormick Q.C, counsel for Dr Singh, announced that the BCA had filed a Notice of Discontinuance, effectively meaning the case is now at and end.

In the article, Dr. Singh suggested that there was a lack of evidence for the claims some chiropractors made on treating certain childhood conditions such as colic and asthma. The BCA alleged that Dr. Singh had effectively accused its leaders of knowingly supporting bogus treatments.

Dr. Singh had recently won an appeal against a High Court ruling that the words used were fact and not opinion, meaning that Dr. Singh could not use the defence of fair comment.

However, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley ruled that High Court judge Mr Justice Eady had "erred in his approach" at the first instance hearing last May, and allowed Dr Singh's appeal.

This case had attracted the wider support of the scientific community because, had the first instance ruling stood, it would have made it difficult for any scientist or science journalist to question claims made by companies or organisations without themselves vulnerable to a libel action to which mounting a defence would be difficult at best.

The BCA has issued a statement confirming its withdrawal. The statement says:-

"While it still considers that the article was defamatory of the BCA, the decision provides Dr. Singh with a defence such that the BCA has taken the view that it should withdraw to avoid further legal costs being incurred by either side".

"As those who have followed the publicity surrounding the case will know, Simon Singh has said publicly that he had never intended to suggest that the BCA had been dishonest. The BCA accepts this statement, which goes some way to vindicating its position".

It is believed that Dr. Singh will now pursue the BCA for his legal costs.

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