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Feature Libel laws and scientific debate

An old battle: England’s libel laws versus scientific debate

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c1227 (Published 10 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1227

Rapid Response:

Court of Appeal Decides Preliminary Issue in Dr Singh's Favour

Today(1st April), the Court of Appeal decided an important preliminary issue in Dr Singh's favour[1].The appeal court overturned the decsion of Eady J and held that the allegedly libellous remarks were "statements of opinion, and one backed by reasons"[1](para.33).So now,in order to succeed at trial, Singh will not have to prove that his remarks were factually true but could rely on the defence of fair comment or the "Reynolds defence of responsible misreporting of facts(which is not expressly pleaded)"[1](para.31).However, the Court of Appeal emphasised that their decision "does not seek to collapse or erode the general distinction between fact and comment"[1](para.31).

Interestingly, the appeal court adopted the view of a rather dated US case "Underwager v Salter 22 Fed. 3d 730 (1994)"(para.34) and also said it is somewhat alarming to read "the standard textbook on the Law of Libel and Slander (Gatley, 11th edition) in relation to the defence of fair comment"(para.35). Though this should be a very significant victory for Singh and those who campaign to reform libel laws,the case is hardly over as the full High Court trial has not begun as yet. It may be that the British Chiropractic Association may launch an appeal against the Court of Appeal's judgment.

References

[1]http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2010/350.html(accessed 1 April 2010)

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

01 April 2010
Jay Ilangaratne
Founder
www.medical-journals.com