Protecting the powerful is a feature, not a bug

September 21st, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, legal chill, libel, politics | 45 Comments »

Here’s a quick piece about libel that I bashed out on request for CiF, covers ground you’ll have read before but it’s always good to keep libel alive in peoples’ minds. I should also say, I think I was in a bit of a mopey mood when I emailed it from the rail replacement bus on Sunday, it’s obviously great that the Lib Dems support libel law reform.

Ben Goldacre, Monday 21 September 2009, guardian.co.uk

I’ve never tried to understand how political parties work – it’s never seemed like a worthwhile use of time – but the Liberal Democrats certainly gave us a friendly hearing in a fringe meeting at their conference yesterday. We also contributed some celebrity spice in the form of Richard Dawkins giving an amendment speech on the main platform, and after a successful vote, it is now a formal part of Lib Dem policy to move for a change in our libel laws.

The Americans, of course, are beating us to it, already discussing specific legislative changes to prevent British rulings from being enforcable outside of this country, and recognising that our law on defamation is an international menace. When we should be defending free speech, consumer protection and investigative reporting, instead we allowed a failing Icelandic bank to silence criticisms and warnings from a Danish newspaper: an Icelandic company, suing Danes, in London, for something they wrote and published in a foreign land. Even in the cartoon South Park, as Nick Cohen pointed out, when Tom Cruise was shouting at the press, he didn’t shout, “I’m gonna sue you,” he shouted, “I’m gonna sue you … in England.”

At our fringe meeting, Simon Singh spoke about his own case, which is now gratifyingly well known, even if he loses. Singh wrote a piece critical of chiropractors in the Guardian which included a single sentence in which he accidentally implied – one might argue, on a tenuous reading – that the British Chiropractic Association was deliberately misleading the public. This is a meaning Singh never intended, and so far the case has cost him £100,000 personally to defend.

This case is not important because chiropractors are important. Medicine is a sinister business, because it is possible – quite accidentally – to do great harm, even when you intend to do good. This is why all medical practices and ideas must be subjected to free and intense critical scrutiny, and that is a process you can see in any medical journal, at any hospital journal club and in any scientific conference, where academic presenters frequently find their claims being attacked in an extremely direct and uncompromising fashion. This is not incidental, and it is not merely tolerated: this is the core of medicine and science, but our draconian and unpredictable libel laws mean that even when people strive to be even-handed, these vital critical discussions are conducted in an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.

Examples abound. Peter Wilmshurst is a medical academic who is currently defending himself against a charge of libel brought in London by a US company over comments he made to an US journalist working for a US publication about a US trial he was involved in. He expressed concerns about what he regards as inconsistencies in the data, and has raised the possibility that the medical technique being studied may not have been successful in some cases. He is defending himself single-handedly, risking his family’s home and livelihood in standing up to this company, after the Medical Defence Union declined to support him.

Readers of the Bad Science column may remember the case of Matthias Rath, a German vitamin pill salesman who unsuccessfully sued the Guardian and me personally over articles that criticised his full-page newspaper adverts in South Africa, in which he claimed that antiretroviral medications were a conspiracy by the pharmaceutical industry to kill people, and claimed that vitamin pills were the answer to the Aids epidemic. The case cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and 18 months to defend.

Individuals may be less able to defend themselves. Various websites have had their criticisms silenced by legal threats from Gillian McKeith, the millionaire holistic therapist. The Society of Homeopaths, when troubled by criticisms of their regulatory practices on Dr Andy Lewis’s Quackometer website, threatened his webhosts, who had no interest in mounting a defence and caved in immediately. Professor David Colquhoun’s website is an exemplary example of an academic scientist engaging directly with the public, unpaid, enthusing people interactively about everything science stands for. When he made instructive criticisms of the evidence for claims made by a herbal pill entrepreneur, UCL received libel threats, and Colquhoun was asked to remove his website from the university’s servers. I could go on.

But the examples spread beyond medicine. Individuals must be able to describe and criticise the actions of the powerful, because that is how free societies work, but as Nick Cohen pointed out today, wealthy men and wealthy institutions are able to use Britain as a way of stopping criticisms anywhere in the world:

You’d expect libel law to be about protecting good reputations but the British courts allow people who are borderline criminals, the classic case being Robert Maxwell. What we do in our own country should be up to us. It is a national disgrace that people in a Ukrainian newspaper should wake up to find that they are being sued in the UK over something they published in Kiev.

This is what we discussed at our fringe meeting, and this is also roughly what Dawkins said, in four-minute form, in his successful slot on the main stage. While I recognise my own inner world holds little interest for anyone else, I’ve been specifically asked by Cif to mention what I thought about the Lib Dems, and whether we welcome their support. Obviously it’s great that they passed this amendment. But in all honesty, however childish it sounds, I view politics as a tedious and impenetrable world of soul-destroying compromise populated by individuals too ambitious to speak clearly on issues of any importance, while generally defending the interests of the new wealthy friends they make while in power. If computer programming analogies are acceptable in a Cif post, our libel laws disproportionately benefit rich and powerful people, and I regard this as a feature, not a bug, so I have no faith that anyone in power will ever do anything about it.


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45 Responses



  1. JohnK said,

    September 21, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Another example of threats of legal action silencing academic discourse:

    www.su.se/english/about/news-and-events/scientists-threatened-with-legal-action-1.1149

    As with Simon Singh and the chiropractors, it seemed to backfire. Like running into a room shouting “don’t look at me.”

  2. scarynige said,

    September 21, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Ben, for those not in the know, what is CiF?

  3. sausage gnocchi said,

    September 21, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    CiF is a cream detergent from Unilever.

    ho ho – or the Guardian’s old folks home for professional trolls, Comment is Free: www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree

  4. JoshuaMacy said,

    September 21, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Don’t know where he’s going with this, but it seems apropos:

    www.sheldoncomics.com/archive/090921.html

  5. scarynige said,

    September 21, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks, sausage gnocchi!

    (I didn’t expect to be writing that when I woke up this morning…)

  6. twaza said,

    September 21, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Great piece Ben, but as you said, the libel laws need to be properly fixed. It is not just science writers and science journalists who have been threatened and attacked, but investigative journalists in general who have been victims of “libel terrorism”: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/16/trafigura-oil-ivory-coast

  7. J155 said,

    September 21, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    you know, it really is annoying that people seem so happy to just throw their hands up and say “hey, I don’t like politics because it’s all about petty self-interest and little else”. It may or may not be the case that there are some fairly strong vested interests in the current system, but what I can assure you is that it will not get better until people actually use the democratic power we have as a right.

    How do you feel when people say to you that they won’t get their kids vacinated because all doctors are evil and only in it for the money? They are harming the whole community with their baseless attacks whilst never trying to engage and change thugs for the better.

    My 2c.

  8. chatsubo said,

    September 21, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    J155 is right. In democracy you get the politicians you deserve.

    It is our responsibility to change the system – the default setting of most people that party politics is beneath them helps nobody.

    It is a coincidence that Cuba has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and Che Guevara was a doctor?

  9. Synchronium said,

    September 21, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    I’m assuming img html tags don’t work in comments, so this will do: e1.simplecdn.net/slashw/bug-feature.jpg

  10. Sili said,

    September 21, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Ah – I was wondering what part of the Skeptosphere I’d see Sheldon turn up in.

    Dave Kellett took a second master’s in Kent and if a great fan of Hobnobs, but I don’t recall seeing him involved in subjects as controversial as this. I, too, am curious to see where he’s going.

    That aside, Sheldon really is a good and wholesome read. /plug

  11. Dave J L said,

    September 22, 2009 at 12:24 am

    I’m aware of all these ridiculous (and frankly embarrassing for us) cases but being a bit ignorant of these things I don’t really understand exactly how mendacious rich people can get away with it; surely crimes are prosecuted according to the laws of the country in which they are committed? How can a person in one country who may criticise someone in a second country be sued in a third? Or is it a case of international law allowing such transfers between certain states?

  12. Dave J L said,

    September 22, 2009 at 12:28 am

    By the way I’m aware libel isn’t a ‘crime’ in the sense of it being civil rather than criminal law, so forgive the use of that term in my post above, but you get my point.

  13. cath morland said,

    September 22, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Whatever happened to the absolute defence of truth and the qualified one of fair comment? Did I sleep through these changes?
    Whilst we wait for yet more changes in the libel laws that may not happen (do we have to wait until the Lib Dems form a government?), perhaps the best approach is to publicise the threats made by these bullies (oops! can I say that?) as widely as posiible and send them up for the cretins they are.

  14. Michael Gray said,

    September 22, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Some of the commenters here seem to be under the laughable idea that Britain is a ‘democracy’!

  15. fontwell said,

    September 22, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Re liberal D’s changing the law, “I have no faith that anyone in power will ever do anything about it.” Well exactly, they would have to be in power first.

  16. Dudley said,

    September 22, 2009 at 7:36 am

    “I have no faith that anyone in power will ever do anything about it.”

    So how come Britain’s laws are 140 times harsher (measured in payouts) and 18 times more weighted toward the plaintiff (measured in successful prosecutions) than in other European countries? They also have rich and powerful people, so how come their system doesn’t contain such gross unfairnesses, if nothing can ever be done about them?

  17. csrster said,

    September 22, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Britain’s libel laws will finally be changed when the someone manages to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights and demonstrates that they are fundamentally contrary to the right to freedom of speech. (I see that there have been previous cases which have focused on more specific issues like the size of damages and the lack of legal aid.)

  18. WoodsieGirl said,

    September 22, 2009 at 9:33 am

    @J155, @chatsubo – agreed. Democracy only works when people get involved. If you don’t like it, whining won’t solve anything.

    Otherwise, some excellent points – and it’s good to see at least one of the main parties engaging with this, even if only the one that will never get elected (sad but true)

  19. Groinhammer said,

    September 22, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Even if the Lib Dems did get elected, nothing would change. I was under the mistaken belief that the Blair government would be a vote for change, but the nation managed to ignore all the harm he and his featherbedding thieves have caused. How can you ‘engage’ a political system that appears to worsen with each newly elected government promising change?

  20. le canard noir said,

    September 22, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    cath morland said “Whatever happened to the absolute defence of truth and the qualified one of fair comment? Did I sleep through these changes?”

    Yes, truth is a defence, but it can be ruinously expensive to put up a defence, even if you win. And with only one judge in the UK hearing libel cases, with the chance of a strange (essentially) unchallengable decision being made, even truth and fair comment may not be enough to ensure that everything you own is taken away from you.

    As such, current libel laws are a major threat to public debate.

  21. Groinhammer said,

    September 22, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Perhaps the retirement of David Eady would usher in the end of libel tourism in the UK. A first brave step if nothing else.

  22. Voter said,

    September 22, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    For those people saying “get involved”, why?

    Politics seems to be as chaotic as the weather and just as hard to control. Utopian sci-fi writers might say “there is no fate but what we make for ourselves” but the test is not the rhetoric but the results.

    It took a civil war in the US to get rid of slavery. So optimistic chants of “yes we can” may deliver little.

    If I get involved in politics, what can I realistically hope to achieve without 40 years of effort? I have a full-time job.

  23. Dudley said,

    September 22, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    But it didn’t take a civil war to get rid of slavery in the UK.

    The difficulty for many with politics is the idea that you have to operate as part of a team. You alone cannot achieve anything even in 40 years – but you plus many more who think like you really can achieve something.

  24. pob said,

    September 22, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    As for Ben’s lack of faith about doing something about it, I think many of you missed his opening sentence;

    “I should also say, I think I was in a bit of a mopey mood when I emailed it from the rail replacement bus on Sunday, it’s obviously great that the Lib Dems support libel law reform.”

    Nuff said.

  25. jonathon tomlinson said,

    September 22, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    @J155, @chatsubo, @WoodsieGirl:
    I’m in an uncomfortable fencetop position agreeing with Ben’s particularly apposite last 6 lines and with your own comments. The ‘puck of the pomo’s’ often helps push one off:

    “A well-known anecdote about Niels Bohr illustrates the same idea [r/e democracy]. Surprised at seeing a horseshoe above the door of Bohr’s country house, a visiting scientist said he didn’t believe that horseshoes kept evil spirits out of the house, to which Bohr answered: ‘Neither do I; I have it there because I was told that it works just as well if one doesn’t believe in it!’ This is how ideology functions today: nobody takes democracy or justice seriously, we are all aware that they are corrupt, but we practise them anyway because we assume they work even if we don’t believe in them” Slavoj Žižek Berlusconi in Tehran www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n14/zize01_.html

  26. Voter said,

    September 23, 2009 at 11:36 am

    The message seems to be mixed.

    First, we are told: get involved, you can make a difference

    Now we are told: well actually you cannot make a difference unless you have a team

    How am I supposed to obtain this team? I have a full time job. Should I tour the country?

    One option is a blog. Do you know how many blogs there are out there, often contradicting each other? If two blog contradict, both cannot win the argument. So, the only conclusion is that one must fail. So the message “you can make a difference” is clearly one that does not apply to all, despite the views of scifi writers.

    The average readership of most blogs is what. One? Yeah, that is really getting involved.

    Look at the huge opposition to the war in Iraq. Did that stop the war? How did women get the vote? By extreme methods. Let us talk about UK slavery. How did that get stopped? By one person writing a blog?

    Randi has been campaigning for years. Has he eliminated pseudoscience?

    So, let us stop pretending it is easy to change the political situation.

    Let us learn from history. History is clear that change occurs but the change is sporadic and exaggerating the role of the every individual is not helpful

  27. ekcol said,

    September 23, 2009 at 11:51 am

    “In democracy you get the politicians you deserve.”

    In a democracy, you get the politicians who can afford to run for election, and who are selected to run by their party, or who run as an independent with no hope of changing anything. As a bonus, you get whichever one gets the highest absolute number of votes, even if more people voted against them than for them.

    And then they get told how to vote on most issues by those holding power in the party.

    Perhaps a lot of us should probably get more involved in politics than we are. But the idea that the right to vote gives the public control over how the government acts is like something a baby or a lamb would think.

  28. WoodsieGirl said,

    September 23, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    @Voter,
    “let us stop pretending it is easy to change the political situation”

    I didn’t see anyone suggest that it’s easy. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the point I was trying to make is that if everyone believes that there’s no point getting invoved and trying to change anything, then nobody will do anything and the situation continues as it is. Of course one individual cannot make a difference – and the fewer people who take the time to try and make their voice heard, the more each of them will have to do to actually make any difference at all. Whereas if everyone did something, however small – sign a petition, talk to their MP, write to the papers – that would make the voting public a little more difficult to ignore. I have a full time job too; I’m also studying at the same time. But there are issues I care about, so I make a little time – maybe an hour a week – to try and do what I can to raise awareness (and no, I didn’t “tour the country” to find a “team” to work with – welcome to the internet). No, it isn’t much, but I think it’s better than doing nothing. Maybe I’m being too idealistic; maybe I haven’t been disappointed enough times to understand how pointless it all is. I can’t help but think though that idealism is probably more productive than cynicism.

    I’m not suggesting that if everyone starts a blog then we’ll change the world tomorrow (in fact, looking over the comments I think you were the first one to mention blogging as a tool – where did you get that from?). I agree that true change is slow and difficult to bring about. But surely just saying “it’s too hard, so I won’t do anything” is even less likely to change anything.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, bluntly, shit or get off the pot. If people think things need to change, they should do something about it. If they don’t care enough to, then they shouldn’t moan about it.

  29. WoodsieGirl said,

    September 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    @ekcol

    “the idea that the right to vote gives the public control over how the government acts is like something a baby or a lamb would think”

    But would you agree that the right to vote, along with the right to free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, etc, at least give us the opportunity to have our say, even if it is ignored? As I said before, the more people take advantage of that opportunity, the harder it is for those in power to ignore us.

    Sorry, I meant “Baaa…” ;-)

  30. speedkermit said,

    September 23, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Dave J L:

    “surely crimes are prosecuted according to the laws of the country in which they are committed? How can a person in one country who may criticise someone in a second country be sued in a third? Or is it a case of international law allowing such transfers between certain states?”

    Under UK law, if a libel can be read from a computer in the UK, then it is deemed to have been ‘published’ here, and if it has been published in the UK then our jurisdiction can hear the case. Most other jurisdictions in the world take the commonsense approach that the libel is published wherever the defendant uploaded it from. Not us. This is but one of the many reasons why our libel laws drastically need overhauling – the Government needs to stop pretending that the internet never happened.

  31. Beanzy said,

    September 24, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    It’s not up to people like Ben Goldacre to ‘get involved’.
    He does what he does best, gets the information out there so others can act on it. It’s up to those who want to hold power to pay attention to what they’re being told. It’s up to voters to ask these people why they’re not paying attention, and to have the courage to kick them out when they don’t.

    I’ve seen too many people get enthusiastic about one topic, then try to become involved in the politicl side. You’ll find no more effective way of muting criticism than by sucking activists into the politcs & getting them to spread their efforts too thinlyby trying to work the political system from within. Stay out and shout loud.

    We have politicians to represent our views, there’s no point in keeping a dog and doing the barking yourself.

  32. RFHolloway said,

    September 25, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Was it churchil whho said “Democracy is absolutely the worst form of government…. aart from all the other ones”?

    and I cant remember who said “Democracy is the only system of govenment that gives the people the government that they deserve”

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  34. Robert Carnegie said,

    October 2, 2009 at 11:49 am

    It took a bloody long time to get rid of slavery and the slave trade in the British Empire. It also took, and some people seem to be quite cross that this is overlooked, slave revolts that were bloodily put down by private and/or government forces but that did disadvantage slave-owners economically. Elsewhere it’s been argued that it took the “Industrial Revolution” to replace unskilled slave labour with machinery as the cheap way to get some heavy lifting done.

    Ben, when you mention a US trial here, I think you’re referring to a scientific experiment and not a court case, but there is a degree of ambiguity.

  35. heavens said,

    October 2, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Ben, your jargon isn’t quite right. A feature should do The Right Thing. Disproportionate protection of the powerful is not The Right Thing.

    If this is an intentional effect, it’s a misfeature. If accidental, it could be a bug. More likely, however (assuming that you’re otherwise fairly satisfied with UK law), it could be called a wart.

    Bugs should be fixed, and warts should be removed.

  36. DavidB said,

    October 5, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I hold no brief, in any sense, for chiropractors, but this discussion is absurdly biased. Simon Singh’s article said of the British Chiropractic Association that ‘This organization is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.’ In plain English – and not just ‘on a tenuous reading’ – this clearly implies dishonesty (as the judge has reasonably decided), and Singh’s defenders have to bend over backwards to find some less damaging interpretation. If Singh did not intend the implication of dishonesty, he was given the opportunity to retract and apologise, but he chose not to do so. If he wishes to make a martyr of himself in the name of ‘science’, he is hardly another Galileo.

  37. gewisn said,

    October 5, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Follow the money!
    Who (as in, what profession/industry) makes money off of the current practices?
    That will lead you to the power behind the difficulty changing a social/political system.
    If, in this case, it’s the lawyers, then those are the people (and their finances) you need to hold up for public scrutiny. Show how they are in bed with the elected politicians who refuse to change the laws, and you might begin to get change.
    Public/social change is a lot like evolution and plate tectonics in that there has to be a system that is always applying pressure, but that doesn’t mean the change is constant or entirely predictable. The change comes when forces (internal and external) cause a sudden jolt and the result is a rather rapid change. You don’t know just when that will be, but you have to have the pressure on when that opportunity comes or you will miss it. Attempting to force the system too hard (e.g. violence) often has completely opposite, detrimental effects in comparison to those you wanted. Sometimes it works, but at least as often it causes more harm than good.

  38. crazy horse said,

    October 7, 2009 at 11:03 am

    There appears to be a lot of people out there that agree with you regarding the libel laws. But there seems to be no concerted campaign where people can express this. To get the ball rolling why not put a petition on the Government’s website and see what the repsonse might be. It won’t solve the problem but if enough people sign it might get more attention.

  39. elvisionary said,

    October 14, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I think people are mixing up two different things here: the jurisdiction of English libel laws, and the nature of the law itself (i.e. what counts as libel).

    Even if Ben’s gloomily cynical view of the motivation of politicians is accurate, I don’t see what interest British politicians have in maintaining London’s status as a global haven for libal suits. Apart from anything, it’s a monstrously inefficient use of the public funds that are spent on our courts and judiciary. That on its own would be a good enough reason for any government to want to limit the international jurisdiction of our libel laws. (The alternative of course would be to see it as a revenue opportunity, charge 25% of any awards to foreigners, and aggressively advertise our courts overseas in the same way as we do our universities…)

    I’m less clear on what is wrong with the libel laws themselves – assuming they are used for genuinely domestic cases. We have judges and juries to come to the right answer – and in most cases they seem to get it right. The problem rather is how much it costs to defend an action, which gives a massive advantage to plaintiffs with deep pockets, who can intimidate their victims into giving in. But this is a broader problem that affects all forms of litigation where legal aid is unavailable. Lawyers are just so expensive that the biggest challenge is actually getting in front of a judge in the first place.

  40. heavens said,

    October 29, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Elvisionary, the problem with the libel laws themselves is that they’re imposing themselves on every person in the world — including more than six billion people that have no say whatsoever in the content of those laws.

    There are things that are not libelous under non-UK laws, but if (for example), an American citizen, while physically located in the USA, says something about another American citizen, who is also physically located in the USA, about something that was done in the USA, and says this on a blog that *could be* accessed in the UK — even if it never is, or isn’t until some UK legal professional wants to get paid for a lawsuit — then the UK’s libel laws magically apply, and the US citizen can be punished for saying something in his own country that, in his own country, is protected free speech.

    Making the UK’s libel laws apply to every person in the entire world means that the UK is interfering with other nations’ sovereign rights to set their own standards for what is and isn’t libel. It means that the 646 members of the UK parliament, elected by about half a percent of the world’s population, are creating laws that are imposed without consent, and frequently without knowledge, on the remaining 99.5% of the world. It means that Free Speech is reduced to “whatever the UK chooses to allow you to say”. We do not want a few arrogant people to erode liberty worldwide.

  41. elvisionary said,

    November 2, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Thanks heavens (!)- I completely agree with that. The distinction I was trying to draw was between the jurisdiction of the UK libel laws (i.e. the global nature of them), and what they actually define as a libel (e.g. something that is untrue and damaging to someone’s reputation). My point was that I’m unconvinced that the law is wrong with regard to the latter (but open to persuasion). On the former, I’m with you.

    The weakness in my argument is probably that the two points are linked. The international jurisdiction wouldn’t matter if it weren’t for the fact that the UK appears to offer more protection to the plaintiff than other countries do. Given that the internet has eroded national boundaries from a publication persective, maybe the only solution is global harmonisation of libel laws. But this could be practically impossible to achieve…

  42. elvisionary said,

    November 18, 2009 at 10:49 am

    For anyone who’s interested, there’s a good piece in the Economist on this:

    www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14845167

    It offers some pragmatic and balanced suggestions about how to improve the law – I particularly like the suggestion about forcing people down the mediation route before litigation, as this would substantially reduce the scope for using financial clout to silence people.

    Reading this also prompted me to read up on Eady’s judgment in the Singh case. And having done so, I take back my suggestion that judges usually get it right. The ruling rests on the idea that criticising someone for “happily promoting” something which is “bogus” and based on a lack of evidence implies that they are being consciously dishonest, as opposed to just deluded, or unconcerned about the evidence for what they are promoting. That’s nothing to do with the law – it’s just a perverse interpretation of the facts, betraying a fundamental lack of understanding both of human nature and the nature of scientific evidence.

    But individual judges do sometimes get things wrong – that’s why we have appeal courts, and in the UK anyway, the higher the court, the more likely they typically are to consider the fundamental principles of justice at stake. I’m sure Singh will win on appeal.

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