Friday, 8 May 2009

BCA vs Singh update

On the offchance any of my readers do not also read the great bloggings of my friend Jack of Kent, I recommend that you take a gander at his new update on the preliminary hearing of the libel case brought against Simon Singh by the British Chiropractic Association (to be found here).

I have nothing to add, except in echoing Jack's sentiment that this is an astonishing, bizarre and horrendously illiberal ruling.


Vincent said...

It seems to me that the judge is taking the view that calling the chiropractors "bogus" is to call them deliberately fraudulent; therefore the libel case rests on whether Simon Singh can support his accusation that chiropractors, or the organisation that makes claims on their behalf, is deliberately fraudulent.

It seems to me that it's completely straightforward. Is a Catholic priest, for example, "bogus" for promulgating matters of faith for which there is not scientific evidence? It's a pretty strong thing to accuse a person or organisation of being "bogus".

Darkwinter said...

Perhaps; but the judge didn't consider the fact that Singh went on to define his particular meaning of the word "bogus" in a later paragraph, where he clearly and explicitly linked it to the dearth of scientific evidence on the matter. That is the definition that should have been used and defended.

Vincent said...

You may be interested to know that the blog Language Log has devoted a post to this case.

It attracted a comment relevant to your point from Thomas Westgard, as follows: "This context (a trial court) recognizes the speaker's intent, the reader's understanding, and court precedent, before it recognizes dictionary definitions. So, to judge this situation well, you would need to go through the transcripts of depositions, lawyers' submissions, and all the other material related to the case, including precedent, to know whether the judge is being unreasonable. He could be, but the blog posts on the subject are insufficient basis."

Thomas Westgard appears (from his blog) to be an American lawyer.

I certainly agree with his point that the intention of the author when using a word cannot be the only consideration to guide a judge.

In other words the Humpty Dumpty defence - ‘When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less’ - doesn't hold in a libel court.

Jack of Kent said...

Thanks for your support, Darkwinter my good friend. This may not be over yet...