I attended the Alternative Libel Project launch on Thursday 15th March in London. It was a fantastic night for all concerned and really brought home the level of support that the campaign has.
The petition for libel reform has over 60,000 signatures which is a testament to the work put in by the Index on Censorship, Sense About Science, English Pen and all of the people who work for those organisations.
The campaign might not have had as much publicity if it were not for Simon Singh's public libel battle with the British Chiropractic Association and it is because of his stand, in the face of some extremely burdensome costs, that others have felt emboldened to also fight their corner.
Everyone should sign the pledge wall if only to offer their support to the campaign further. You can do this here: http://www.libelreform.org/pledge-wall
The Inner Temple, when the event was held, is a magnificent building full of history and character. I was caught on camera looking around at the various oil paintings by John Gray, a fellow libel survivor:
You can see me next to the tall chap (Robert Dougans) towards the bottom left of the photo.
The Alternative Libel Report that was launched offers some sound reasons why mediation before trial and cost caps are important in the push for reform.
My personal opinion is that I think many claims can be dealt with fairly quickly, and certainly within a month of issue, by a tribunal process which determines the level of readership of whatever defamatory words are complained of. If the readership is low then the level of damage will be also be relatively low and therefore claims can be assessed for the correct track (similar to how the small claims court allocates claims).
David Allen Green asked the audience to consider what the law of defamation was for? His answer was "vindication" and I agreed with him when he said that take-down notices do not provide vindication. Suing people for al they are worth is also not vindication. This is something which is important to consider in the grand scheme of libel reform for those who are wondering why science is being stifled by the chilling effect of a libel threats.
I was overwhelmed with how many people wanted to speak to me on the night. They had all heard of the libel case I am defending and I had some interesting conversations with people like Hardeep Singh, John Gray, Robert Dougans. Simon Singh, Sile Lane, David Allen Green, Henry Spooner, Jonathan Price, Mike Harris, Nick Cohen, James O'Malley, Liz Lutgendorff (who runs The Pod Delusion)... and many more.
I was talked into a photo with David Allen Green, John Gray and Robert Dougans...
I'm into powerlifting and have spent the past 8 weeks on something called GOMAD where the aim is to drink a Gallon Of Milk A Day - coupled with an intensive squat/deadlift/press routine it packs on muscle but also bloats the hell out of you and makes you look quite fat (as my best mate Neil Porter knows all too well). The picture reminds me that it's time to get off the protein shakes and get on the rowing machine.
But I have to say lifting a few accumulated tons of iron in the gym certainly helps get rid of any frustration and stress that builds up during the case. I start the Smolov squat routine next week and coupled with cutting my diet down to a single bean in reduced fat tomato sauce I should either be lean or dead depending on how intense the workouts become.
This is me deadlifting... before I started on the GOMAD plan :)
Enough of that for now, but I think the personal experience of being involved in a libel case tends to be lost in the procedure and detail focused push towards reforming the laws. Whether reform will change the personal experiences for those involved is difficult to say right now because we do not know what the new rules will look like just yet.
And speaking of personal experiences of libel, the final hearing for my strike out application will be heard on the 30th March 2012 at 2pm in London (RCJ). If you can make it, it would be great to see you there.
You can also hear me on The Pod Delusion being interviewed by Hardeep Singh about libel reform and the personal experience of defending a libel case (although extremely careful not to say too much about the case itself).
Thanks for your support; "Crypto Commie Fascists" like me (a recent insult) still need your support.