I was in London for a course this week, so last nights event was of obvious interest. It is not a collection of people who meet in a pub who are skeptical about the existence of Westminister, but a group of people who met in a pub in Westminister who are skeptical about a range of claims, support libal law reform and freedom to practive evidence based science and journalism.
A top class range of speakers, some of which were battle hardned or in the middle of libal cases. Each case and the experiences seemed ever more rediculious that these people were being sued.
The case of the cardic surgon, Dr Peter Wilmshurst was prehaps the most worrying.
The speakers had nearly all been sued for discussing issues which as far as I can tell were very much in the public interest. Indeed, the subject matter under dispute is of such significance with an example of the scale that in the case of Ben Goldacre case where 100's of thousands of people died because of a lack of anti viral drugs in south Africa (go read his book or have a look at his bad science blog for specifics). Each case was scary in its own right for different reasons, but with the cost of defending even a successful case would cost 100k plus, even if you get your costs back. The threat of libal from a company with deep pockets is enough to make an individual withdraw their comment. Indeed, the strategy seems to be to attack the individual. Forget about Gordon in No. 10, the UK libal laws empower real bullying of the individual by those with deep pockets.
I am disappointed to report I was very impressed by the segment from Evan Harris MP. Funny, intelligent, informed, suggested solutions and an approach for getting by in from Labour and Conservatives by convincing both side the other is making it part of their manifesto. This man needs cloning a couple of times to replace a couple of the current encumbants in the big building with a clock on one side.
I really do wish Simon Singh well today at the high court. The outcome is important and the need for urgent reform of this part of the law is critical. The current libal law leads to preventable deaths, that was my big take away from last night.
Sense About Science site is well worth a read if, like me, this is a new area to you and gives material for a very good line of questioning for your M.P. or prospectives.
The worst part is that even writing a blog which is mainly a medium to get your own thoughts in a line needs some care, this is real censurship.
I don't want to live is a world where evidence based science is blocked by threats from companies and individuals with the deepest pockets which ultimatly puts lives in danger.