View Full Version : British chiro libel lawsuit triggers law in US

08-29-2010, 07:05 AM

American authors, journalists, and bloggers can breathe a sigh of relief: with broad bipartisan support, a short time ago President Obama signed a bill into law that makes sure that the awful and regressive libel laws in the UK cannot be enforced here in the United States.

Iíve written about this issue many times; skeptic and journalist Simon Singh was sued for libel by a UK chiropractors group for saying they "happily promote bogus remedies". In the UK, when sued, you have to prove the claim is false, the opposite of the way it works in most of the rest of the world, including the US. It should be up to the prosecution to prove the claim is true. So in the UK this puts undue burden on the person accused, an almost guilty-until-proven-innocent situation.

This has engendered a process called "libel tourism", where people will sue in the UK no matter where the defendant might live. For example, if I made some claim that chiropractors practice bogus remedies, them suing me in the US would be difficult. But in the UK, it would be far easier, so they would sue me there. I would have to spend thousands of dollars, perhaps hundreds of thousands, defending myself, as Simon Singh had to when he was sued.

This new law prevents that. If someone tried to sue me in the UK, they wouldnít be able to get traction here in the States. The new law, with the (awful) name "Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage", or SPEECH, broadly protects the free speech rights of Americans. Itís another step in the process of getting the UK government to reform their libel laws.


In 2008, Singh was unsuccessfully sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association for criticising their activities in a column in The Guardian.[1] A "furious backlash"[2] to the now dropped lawsuit has resulted in the filing of formal complaints of false advertising against more than 500 individual chiropractors within one 24 hour period, one national chiropractic organisation ordering its members to take down their websites,[3] and Nature Medicine noting that the case had gathered wide support for Singh, as well as prompting calls for the reform of English libel laws.[4] On 1 April 2010, Simon Singh won his court appeal for the right to rely on the defence of fair comment.[5] On 15 April 2010, the BCA officially withdrew its lawsuit, ending the case.[6]

It's amazing to me that Singh got sued for stating the obvious... chiros do happily promote bogus remedies as we have seen in the scoliosis arena. Truth should be a defense.