News reaches us via intrepid legal blogger Jack of Kent that the British Chiropractic Association has dropped its legal action against science writer Simon Singh by issuing a 'notice of discontinuance.' As Jack succinctly puts it: The case is over.
Too right - a great many congratulations to Simon, and to the thousands of people that now support the Campaign for Libel Reform.
Simon's case may well be over, but he will still face an uphill battle to recover all his costs, estimated to have reached £200,000 to date.
And despite this welcome victory, there remains a pressing need to reform English and Welsh Libel law - all three major political parties are now committed to reforming the law, and in the run-up to the election we must continue to press for new legislation that prevents cases like Simon's don't happen again.
For now it is right that we celebrate Simon's victory as it represents a watershed in the defence of open debate and free speech - to say nothing of the impact this case and the publicity it has generated will have on the protection of fair comment and scientific discourse.
More later possibly!
thanks to commenter John Collins (below), who alerted me to the BCA's statement on the issue - you can read the statement here.
Sense about Science have now put up a detailed statement from Simon, SaS's Tracey Brown and Simon's solicitor Robert Dougans. Please do read the whole thing as it goes a long way to demonstrating just how vital wholesale libel reform is despite the case against Simon being dropped - here are a couple of highlights though... Simon said,
English libel law is so intimidating, so expensive, so hostile to serious journalists that it has a chilling effect on all areas of debate, silencing scientists, journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and everyone else who dares to tackle serious matters of public interest.
He went on to argue that reform is required to protect the likes of Dr. Peter Wilmshurst, who is being sued for raising safety concerns regarding a new medical device:
If Dr Wilmshurst loses his case then he will be bankrupted. It is ridiculous that a respected researcher such as Dr Wilmshurst, someone who has devoted his life to medicine, should be put under such pressure just for speaking his mind.Robert Dougans said:
All that now remains to be settled is how much of Simon’s legal costs he can recover from the BCA, and how much he will have to bear himself. However well this process goes, Simon is likely to be out of pocket by about 20,000 pounds. This - and two years of lost earnings, which he can never recover - is the price he has paid for writing an article criticising the BCA for making claims the Advertising Standards Agency has ruled can no longer be made.
As has often been said, a victory of this sort comes at a price, a price that the Campaign for Libel Reform is adamant must not be paid in the future for the simple act of discussing matters of essential public interest.