Thu Apr 1st, 2010 at 10:28:19 AM EST
|The first nail in the coffin of libel tourism?
The science writer Simon Singh has won his court of appeal battle for the right to rely on the defence of fair comment in a libel action.
Singh was accused of libel by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) over an opinion piece he wrote in the Guardian in April 2008.
In an earlier judgment, now overturned, Singh had been wrongly denied the defence of "fair comment" because he was deemed to be discussing scientific fact.
Lord Judge said the court adopted what Judge Easterbrook, now chief judge of the US seventh circuit court of appeals, had said in a 1994 libel action over a scientific controversy.
Easterbrook had declared that those claiming they had been libelled "cannot, by simply filing suit and crying 'character assassination!', silence those who hold divergent views, no matter how adverse those views may be to plaintiffs' interests.
"Scientific controversies must be settled by the methods of science rather than by the methods of litigation. More papers, more discussion, better data, and more satisfactory models - not larger awards of damages - mark the path towards superior understanding of the world around us."
If you haven't already done so, please sign the petition for libel law reform at http://www.libelreform.org/. As bloggers, it affects us all.
The Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris said: "This sensible judgment is no substitute for fundamental law reform. It is no kind of justice for a scientist to spend £200,000 and two years of his life just to get halfway 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."