...is an important recent ruling of the Court of Appeal that has several interesting applications for AS law students.
Singh is a journalist who published an article in the Guardian newspaper that was critical of chiropractors, and in particular of claims that their treatment was effective for things such as prolonged crying in infants. He was subsequently sued for libel by the British Chiropractors' Association.
The judge at first instance found that Singh's assertion that chiropractors "happily promote bogus treatments" meant, to paraphrase "deliberately untruthful". Libel law requires a defendant to prove the truth of such a statement - this is a reversal of the usual burden of proof. Obviously, based on that finding, Singh would struggle to prove his allegation to be true.
However, Singh's view was that the judge was wrong on this, and he therefore appealed to the Court of Appeal, whose recent judgment supports Singh's view, which is that his article was comment rather than a statement of fact. Although this was only a preliminary ruling, the BCA have now discontinued their action against Singh.
There are several points for you to note here:
Firstly, the campaign for libel reform is a great example of influcences on law reform - in this case, pressure groups. All parties have now committed in their manifestos to consider the issue.
Secondly, the judges in the Court of Appeal relied in part on an American case, Underwager v Salter. This is an example of the persuasive effect of foreign judgments on English courts.
Thirdly, there are links here to the rule of law, and in particular to the idea that everyone is equal before the law. Some say libel law is used by the rich as a muzzle to silence their critics, effectively using the huge costs of defending a libel action to force critics to back down, or risk bankruptcy.