Way back in February 2010, I posted on science journalist and author Dr Simon Singh’s campaign to have British libel law changed in view of his defence of a legal action brought by The British Chiropractic Association who sued him for libel following publication of a highly critical piece on The Guardian Comment Is Free in April 2008.
My original piece bemoaned that I had signed Singh’s online petition and forwarded it to my local MP only to receive a discouraging reply that while he supported the aims of the campaign, he was not in the habit of supporting “Early Day Motions” as he felt they are a waste of Parliamentary time and taxpayers’ money. Apparently, they are seldom debated, rarely brought to a vote and require neither recognition nor response from the government. They are known in Westminster as “parliamentary graffiti” and can cost in excess of £627,000.
Since that post, I did not comment any further on the matter and indeed went on an extended blogging sabbatical shortly thereafter. However, I forwarded my post to Simon Singh and received a delightful reply. I post both my email and his reply in the comments section below. I also followed the case with interest and am glad that my original post was proven wrong. Firstly, Singh won the libel action in April 2010 when The British Chiropractic Association dropped the case after he was given leave to appeal using the defence of “fair comment”.
Furthermore, in April 2013 Parliament passed the Defamation Act 2013 which should provide more protection for individuals and organisations, including newspapers and broadcasters, which criticise big companies. The Act also aims to end London’s status as the “libel tourism capital of the World” by stopping cases being taken in London against journalists, academics or individuals who live outside the country, denting the libel tourism industry (but not ending it altogether, as foreigners will still be able to lodge claims in the High Court).
I then received a group email from Simon Singh on 8 October 2013 announcing that he was going on a speaking tour to promote his new book, The Simpsons And Their Mathematical Secrets, and that everyone who had signed his online petition had been mentioned in his new book. I will be seeing Simon speak at The University of Chester on 21 October 2013 and then hopefully again at Merseyside Skeptics Society – Skeptics In The Pub on 12 December 2013. A scan of the page in his new book where I am thanked is below; first full name on the bottom line.
At the time of posting, I am about one third of the way through Singh’s book. For someone who just barely scrapped a Grade ‘C’ on the lower paper for GCSE Maths and still to this day shudders at the mere sight of numbers, I am finding it a most lucid and humorous journey in equations through one of my all time favourite television shows. It may not transform me overnight into Good Will Hunting, but it’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable than having SOHCAHTOA drilled into my head at school ever was.
Tags: Alternative Medicine On Trial, British Chiropractic Association, Comment is Free, Defamation, Defamation Act 2013, Fermat’s Last Theorem, Libel, Mathematics, merseyside skeptics society, Simon Singh, Skeptics In The Pub, The Guardian, The Simpsons, The Simpsons And Their Mathematical Secrets, Trick or Treatment?, University of Chester