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Evidence matters to the public

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Plant Science Panel

Insecticides, biofuels, GMOs …

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'The Ugly Truth'

by Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science

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Keep libel laws out of science

KLOSSense About Science launched the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign in June 2009, calling for reform of the libel laws to protect open scientific discussion.

We encourage scientists to enter public debates on science and we support open discussion about scientific research so when we became aware that our libel laws were chilling scientific discussion, we knew we had to act. We objected to several high profile cases brought against scientists and were inundated with correspondence from hundreds of scientific researchers, patient groups, writers and publishers around the world about libel threats being used to silence scientific debate.

Our timeline of events shows Sense About Science’s story since June 2009 to our work today as part of the Libel Reform Campaign with writers' organisation English PEN and free-speech organisation Index on Censorship. The groundswell of support for the campaign led to the libel laws in England & Wales being reformed. The Defamation Act 2013 received Royal Assent on 25th April 2013 and came into force on 1st January 2014.

However, the Libel Reform Campaign continues. Very few of the new provisions have been extended to Scotland, and none in Northern Ireland. This has left British citizens in those nations with fewer free speech protections than their neighbours in England & Wales. Worse, since most publishers operate throughout the UK, the jurisdictions with unreformed law could to chill free speech everywhere in the United Kingdom, and the Defamation Act 2013 could be undermined.

We are working with medical and scientific groups and our supporters to ensure that changes made to the laws are substantial and meaningful. Add your voice, follow progress and get involved at

Timeline of the campaign

Keep Libel Laws out of Science logo 
Sense About Science launches Keep Libel Laws out of Science

June 2009

    Simon Singh
BCA V Singh
Simon Singh on the background to his case

  World Conference Science Journalists
The World Conference of Science Journalists

July 2009

    Simon's Appeal
Simon Singh's application turned down by Court of Appeal

August 2009

     Simon Royal Courts Justice
Simon Singh to apply again to Court of Appeal for oral hearing
  Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins Addresses the Liberal Democrat Annual Party Conference

September 2009

  Lib Dem logo
The Liberal Democrats commit to libel reform


The Association of British Science Writers annual lecture

October 2009

    Simon's Appeal
Simon Singh is granted permission to appeal
  Free Speech is Not for Sale report
Free Speech is Not For Sale report published

November 2009


Jack Straw acknowledges need for libel reform


  Libel campaign launch
Launch of Libel Reform Campaign

December 2009

Panel for Simon Singh's appeal announced
  Clegg speech
Nick Clegg addresses Royal Society on libel

January 2010

  Jack Straw announces plans to reduces costs of libel
Jack Straw announces plans to reduce costs of libel laws and announces formation of new working group on libel law


  CMS report
CMS Report 'Press Standards, Privacy and Libel'

February 2010

   Simon's appeal

Simon Singh's appeal hearing
  Big Libel Gig
Big Libel Week

March 2010

  Professor Lacerda
Prof. Lacerda addresses MPs on libel chill
The Big Libel Gig featuring Dara O Briain, Tim Minchin, Robin Ince, Ed Byrne and many more 
  Mass Lobby
Mass Lobby of Parliament
Report of the Libel Working Group published    
Labour logo
Labour Party commits to libel reform
Conservatives commit to libel reform

April 2010

   Simon appeal judgement

Simon Singh appeal successful

Three major parties commit to libel reform in manifestos

   Simon Singh judgement

The BCA drop their case against Simon Singh

Parliamentary Early Day Motion for libel reform closes

  Free speech hustings
Free Speech Election Hustings
  Lord Lester

Lord Lester's Libel Bill published

May 2010

  Libel Bill

Government announces libel reform bill

July 2010


Medical Journalists' Association Awards 

  SPEECH act
US passes SPEECH Act against libel tourism

August 2010

Libel Reform Campaign events at three main party conferences    
  Reforming Libel leaflet
Reforming Libel: What must a Defamation Bill achieve?

September 2010

A letter from Simon Singh, Ben Goldacre and Peter Wilmshurst calling for libel reform
  Geek Calendar
Launch of Geek Calendar to raise funds for libel reform

October 2010

  Bloggers guide
New guide to libel laws for bloggers published

November 2010

     Boob job threat
Plastic surgeon threatened for comment on 'boob job' cream
  Liberty awards
Libel Reform Campaign nominated for Liberty Human Rights Awards

  One Year On
One Year On: Justice Minister says libel laws not fit for   purpose

December 2010

    Peter Wilmshurst
US company ordered to pay costs into court or have libel action against cardiologist struck out
  Nick CLegg civil liberties
Nick Clegg commits to libel reform in speech on civil liberties

January 2011

  What should a defamation bill contain?

What should a Defamation Bill contain?

March 2011

     Peter Wilmshurst

Cardiologist Peter Wilmshurst sued for libel for 4th time  
Government publishes draft Defamation Bill    
Ask your MP to support EDM 1636 on libel reform    
Libel Reform Campaign tell MPs what we think of draft bill

May 2011

Our written evidence to the scrutiny committee


Help us shape Britain's libel laws


Ministers say draft bill is not reform

June 2011

Critic sued in Australia for libel by weight-loss product manufacturer
A quick guide to libel laws in England and Wales


A message from Simon Singh & Ben Goldacre

British Medical Association votes unanimously for libel law reform


August 2011


Peter Wilmshurst

Scrutiny committee of the draft Defamation Bill publishes its report

October 2011


Parliamentary event November 2011


Campaigners call on the Minister to back urgent action on libel law reform

November 2011

Nature defends a libel action in the High Court

Richard Dawkins, Amazon and Vaughn Jones defend a libel action in the High Court
    Bloggers threatened with libel action after discussing unproven cancer treatments

All we want for Christmas is our MPs to back libel reform in the Queen's Speech

December 2011

Government's response to Joint Scrutiny Committee on Draft Defamation Bill

March 2012




Rally for Libel Reform

  Decision in Dawkins, and Jones libel case

Libel reform announced in Queen’s Speech to Parliament

May 2012 

Government publishes Defamation Bill 2012    
Second reading debate of Defamation Bill 2012

June 2012

Rally for a public interest defence     
 Decision in Nature libel case July 2012  
Report and third reading of Defamation Bill 2012 September 2012  
Defamation Bill goes to House of Lords October 2012  

Ed Miliband supports new pubilc interest defence
Collection of stories on the need for a new pubilc interest defence December 2012  
Defamation Bill moves to Grand Committee in House of Lords    
Don't drop the Defamation Bill February 2013  
The Government must bring the Defamation Bill back to the Commons March 2013  
Defamation Bill returns to the House of Commons April 2013  
Government chooses business interests over citizens      
Defamation Bill returns to the House of Lords    
Defamation Bill is given Royal Assent. Here's our initial analysis.    
Join us to raise a glass to libel reform. May 2013
Penderel's Oak - four years on.     
The Defamation Act and next steps for libel reform   June 2013  
Libel reform: What Next?      
Don’t bring the libel bullies to Belfast, say authors  September 2013  
Battle to modernise libel law continues elsewhere in UK  
A new dawn for libel law January 2014  
What does the new law mean for you?    
The fight for libel reform continues in Northern Ireland February 2014  
Libel concerns prevent book from publication March 2014  
New campaign groups says "Protect free speech in Northern Ireland" May 2014  
Bringing libel reform to Scotland July 2014