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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

“Libel Tourism” and England – Global Home for Libel Litigation ?

Who knew- apparently there is “libel tourism,” a concept I learned about from reading Walter Olson at Pointof Law and then reading a recent Wall Street Journal article for which he provided the link. The article arises from a libel judgment entered against a science writer (Mr. Singh) who commands the respect of the WSJ. The article goes on to say that the burden of proof is essentially reversed in Britain, and that the burden is on the author to prove is on the author to prove that the article is “not libelous.” This particular case apparently arose from the science writer taking issue with an article in which chiropractors asserted that they could cure are things such as colic, and the author called that claim “bogus.” A 2006 article from Overlawyered indicates the House of Lords that year adopted a defense based on fair public comment. A group known as Sense About Science is complaining bitterly. Mr. Singh’s credential s appear quite good; an account of his situation and appeal is posted here, and describes him as follows:

“Simon Singh completed a BSc in physics and a PhD in particle physics at Cambridge University before becoming a director and producer in the BBC science department. He worked on Tomorrow’s World and Horizon and won a BAFTA for directing a documentary on the subject of Fermat’s Last Theorem. After leaving the BBC, he wrote a series of bestselling popular science books, such as “Fermat’s Last Theorem”, “The Code Book” and “Big Bang”. He has also presented several radio and TV programmes, and his educational initiatives include the Enigma Project and the Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme. In 2003 he received an MBE for services to science education and communication.”

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