Fantastic news from the Royal Courts this morning, live-tweeted and blogged and podcasted and all sorts – Simon’s case has taken a huge step forward after judges ruled in his favour. His comment (in the Guardian comment section) that the BCA ‘happily promotes bogus treatments’ has indeed been recognised as fair comment – opinion justifiably expressed based on the evidence available.
I’ll try to do a round-up of the many things that have been published today and recently.
Simon sums up the significance of passing this stage on BBC news. (Robert Dougans to the right and Evan Harris to the left of Simon! As we look at the picture, just realised that was ambiguous)
Moving on to Channel 4 news, here’s a blast from the past (well, last year) – background on the case for anyone who still isn’t up to speed – and today’s coverage where we can just about see Psythor (of PodDelusion) hovering over Simon’s shoulder there…
Dawkins at the Lib Dem conference on Libel Reform and why it’s a good idea!
For a background sum-up with good comments, NeuroLogica blogged on the case too.
There’s also a statement released by the BCA, which is quite hilarious.
In it they basically blame their lawyers for convincing them to bring a libel case in the first place, because their oh-so-brilliant reputation had apparently been tarnished by Simon’s use of the above phrase.
Robert Sharp’s photos of the press conference following the ruling here.
Jack of Kent‘s take on today’s result, also linking to the full judgement. He picks out what seem to be, at first look, some important elements – including this para most pertinent to our libel laws in the context of scientific debate:
“[Plaintiffs] 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.”” [para. 34, emphasis added]
In a more recent post, JoK examines this passage and its origin in more detail whilst paying homage to his friend, Robert, Simon’s lawyer, for all his hard work in this case in managing to get it to this stage.
A guest post from Amie at Harry’s Place takes another look at the implications of the judgement – well-written and capturing the mood of the day.
Sense About Science also links to the full judgement and lists quotes from important players in the appeal: Simon’s lawyer Robert (who gave me my ‘keep the libel laws out of science’ badge, cheers Robert!), Tracey Brown of SAS, David (Jack of Kent himself), and ‘Dr Death’ Evan Harris MP.
Nature blogger Stephen Curry writes about the courtroom experience, also quoting the paragraph shown above from the judgement – it holds real significance for science writers and bloggers in particular. The judges themselves are agreeing with us; that science is about evidence, the facts available to us, and should certainly not be directed by those with the deepest pockets.
Index on Censorship have been running a live Twitter feed on the subject of #SinghBCA and #LibelReform.
Late in the day (!), Stuff and Nonsense brings us this update from jdc’s perspective.
Of particular note in this post is his coverage of the treatment received by blogger Zeno for complaining to the GCC (general chiropractic coucil) – they signed him up for all sorts of unsavoury things, including the BNP and sites of a ‘specialist adult nature’. He knows it was them because they were the only people who received that particular e-mail address. How very mature.
Jonathan Heawood had this article published in the Guardian on Tuesday, on why exactly libel reform is necessary – what CFAs are (also nicely explained again by JoK), how Jack Straw’s support has impacted on the campaign and why so many people are enthusiastically backing it.
Evan Harris tells me:
The Lib Dems agreed on Libel Reform in September 2009 and Nick Clegg made a manifesto commitment (the important bit) at the Royal Society in January. Straw said at the mass lobby ‘something’ would be done, – a draft bill within 2010 whilst Howarth was more specific; Conservatives said a review would be completed ‘within a year’. So essentially, Straw is catching up, rather than changing other people’s minds.
Simon’s statement and general case background can be read here in PDF form.
It is ridiculous that it has cost £200,000 to establish the meaning of a handful of words. I am delighted that my meaning has been vindicated by three of the most powerful judges in the country, and I relish the opportunity to defend this meaning in court.
However, I am still angry that libel is so horrendously expensive. That is just one of the reasons why the battle for libel reform must continue.
– Simon Singh