Thursday 15 April 2010

The Ladybird Book of Chiropractic Treatment & English Libel Law

Now updated with 6 new pages of recent events

Even though the BCA have dropped their misconceived case against Simon, please continue to sign the campaign for libel reform to ensure that the politicians follow through with their promises of reform.


Milton Mermikides said...


Allegoricus said...

Excellent stuff - of course this is where you get clobbered by Penguin. ;-)

Jack of Kent said...


You are a genius. Wonderfully done and also completely accurate from legal perspective.

Thank you for this.

Jack of Kent

Neil Davies said...

Fantastic stuff :)

Alice said...

I want one!!!

Jeff Pickthall said...

So simple even a chiropractor could understand it.

Clare Dudman said...

Brilliant - just the right level :-)

Julie Schofield said...

Saw this cos of link by Tim Minchin on twitter. Very funny and very true. Now please go sign the petition. Chiropractors were only one of many things I desperately tried years ago before my M.E. was diagnosed. Of course they took lots of money off me and nothing worked... homeopathy, herbalism, reflexology etc etc. Please help to stop these misguided people making money out of people's misery.

elainepixie said...

This is brilliant! The campaign to get the libel laws changed is so important. A lovely elderly lady I know has spent goodness only knows how much money over the years on not only chiropractors but also homeopathic treatments, "magic" jewellery, subscriptions to pseudoscientific medical newsletter-type journals with horrendously alarmist headlines, astrology profiles and so on. And the more stuff she responds to the more she flags herself up to the rest. Vulnerable people such as she provide rich pickings for the well-meaning-but-ineffective and the unscrupulous alike. It has to be made easier to publicly criticize them. Keep up the good work Crispian!

andypic said...

Rationality, humour and nostalgia for us oldies in equal measure.
Nice one, Crispian... ;-)

Anonymous said...

You've surpassed yourself - this is superb. Thank you for entertaining and informing us.

TK said...

I love you.

Rev. Ouabache said...

Excellent! Any plans to put this into a pdf? That would make it easier to distribute.

vanderleun said...

Page 6 sounds a lot like the climate chiropractors at Hadley CRU.

Hanny said...

This is awesome!

Anonymous said...

Most excellent!

(Well, except the part where it says, "...the Judge always thinks that you must been naughty first.")

Sorry about that.

soul_biscuit said...

Are Ladybird books an English thing? I don't recall ever reading one as a child. (I had a lot of Golden books, or some such.)

Well done. Not only is it simple enough for a chiropractor, but it's simple enough for me, and I'm very easily confused.

Anonymous said...

This is great! Well, except for the fact that the age of reason is now dead and over.
To wit, let's take the example of "time". "Time" does not exist other than as a conceptual convenience for humans. Note that cows don't dwell upon "time".
Show me "time". You can't. It is not possible to observe "time". We can only observe "now" plus tell a story "now" about "some other time".
Without the pillar of "time", all "laws of physics" evaporate.
So much for the scientific method. Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

How many comma splices does this book have? Proper grammar and punctuation does help make a message clearer.

Anonymous said...


Can we have a scientific take-down of charlatan bankers and mendacious pseudo-scientific economists now?

By which I mean the people who have not only ruined the lives of millions - perhaps even billions - with their fake pesudo-mathematical nonsense, but are also dead set on cutting off science funding at the roots, and destroying centuries of academic tradition because both are 'uneconomic.'

This is not to defend the chiropractors, but it's always been a bit odd that skeptics target the trivial and silly easy targets, but ignore the people who have a consistent record of doing truly historical damage.

A cynic might wonder if it's because that warm righteous glow of crusading scientific objectivity might fade a little if it went up against people who are in a position to put up rather more of a fight if their entirely scandalous interests are ever threatened by an objective review of their claims and methods.

StevoR said...

I grew upon those ladybird books -& really loved them & I love this! :-D

Well done! I'm looking forward to the rest of the 'quacks & shysters' series appearing here & the Atheist Bus signs one mentiond at the end!

Mojo said...

@Anonymous: "This is great! Well, except for the fact that the age of reason is now dead and over."

Did you by any chance use a computer to type that?

"Show me "time"."

Anonymous said...

Well done Crispian! You've brilliantly demonstrated the childishness of the collection of self-righteous bloggers who have climbed on the bandwagon to have a go at chiropractors.

Anonymous said...

Superb! Any chance of a higher res downloadable version? I would love to keep this

Ray Martin

Jack of Kent said...

"You've brilliantly demonstrated the childishness of the collection of self-righteous bloggers who have climbed on the bandwagon to have a go at chiropractors."

Indeed; we don't do grown-up things like launching libel lawsuits.

David said...

Jack of Kent said: "You are a genius. Wonderfully done and also completely accurate from legal perspective."

A slight dumbing down of the definition of genius I'd say. More to the point though, presumably Crispian, you have permission from Ladybird Books to use their name and logo on your material. I'm guessing you must do or your "friend and fellow sceptic", Jack of Kent would surely have given you the legal pointers he's so free with.

If, however you do not have their permission, I'll leave it to you to do the honourable thing and remove any copyrighted material. I'd hate to think that you would become the victim of some busy-body who took it upon themselves to make a complaint about you.

Dan said...

@Anonymous, regarding bankers etc.: I agree that thinking up a bunch of formulas and believing that they'll provide a super awesome fair free market for all is a bit naff. But people _are_ already taking on these arguments in different quarters. It seems a bit strange to moan that all other topics should be abandoned in favour of that one; there's room for all.

Plus, the whole point of the post is surely that libel cases are being used to suppress factual information that goes against corporate interests, in this case in the area of public health. It's not hard to imagine similar cases in other fields, including finance, that would benefit from a change in these lopsided laws.

There is a bigger issue at work here; it's the "keep libel laws out of science" one.

Anonymous said...

@Mojo said ""

Everyone should check out this BS for a really terriffic laugh.

Ricardohere said...

Congrats once again, Mr. J.
As is pretty clear to anyone who reads, this is not ONLY about chiropractic.

If this were Facebook, it'd be getting a 'Like' from me... hmmm... link ahoy 8o)

Sean Ellis said...

Excellent. Your innate intelligence is really shining through in this work.

Tony Lloyd said...

Anonymous wrote:

Show me "time". You can't. It is not possible to observe "time".

I'm always puzzled by woo merchants* tendency to sound like Logical Positivists.

Anonymous, do you really mean to say that unless it can be proved it doesn't exist?

Dave and copyright: I don't think Ladybird have suffered any financial or reputational loss. In fact they might benefit from the publicity.

(and/or Post Modernists)

Paul Ingraham said...

@Anonymous: Relevance FAIL!

@Dave, yeah, what Tony said: brands generally benefit from this kind of thing.

Crispian Jago said...

Thanks for all the comments. Much appreciated

Anonymous’s, try having the strength of your convictions and leave a name next time. I’d prefer not to have to audit and censor my comments, so please have the balls to leave a handle.

Jack of Kent said...

Oooh, David! Do I discern an implied threat to go legalistic against a chiropractic critic?

That worked so well last time :-)

Richard said...

Very well put together. But "completely accurate from legal perspective" (Jack of Kent)? Unfortunately not. Truth IS a complete defence to a libel action. You cannot "easily sue any people who say unkind things about you, even if the things they say are true" (p4). Provided a jury are satisfied that what you say is more likely true than not true, you win the case.

Ordinarily it is for a jury to work out (1) what the words mean and (2) whether they are true (or fair comment, or covered by any other defence). But in Simon Singh's case, he (for reasons best known to his laywers) actually asked Mr Justice Eady to determine what the words mean. That is where his problems started - he doesn't agree with what Eady found. But that's OK, he can appeal, and he is doing so.

If the appeal judges agree with Eady, people will disagree, but people disagree about lots of legal decisions. If the appeal judges find in Singh's favour and the BCA lose, then what is the problem?

We will never stop people bringing misguided libel suits, or judges sometimes making unpopular decisions.

Jack of Kent said...

"Truth IS a complete defence to a libel action. You cannot "easily sue any people who say unkind things about you, even if the things they say are true" (p4). Provided a jury are satisfied that what you say is more likely true than not true, you win the case."

Richard - all that rather depends on getting to (and being able to afford to) get to court to plead the justification defence. The financial risks are terrifying and so, in practice, the combination of the substantive and the procdural law means that the effect is just as Cripian depicts.

You, on the other hand, by not properly considering the applicable procedural law and the costs realties of defendants (and potential defendants) are - in my opinion - portraying an idealised, textbook version of libel.

Because of the sheer simplicity of bringing a case once there is a defamatory statement in respect of a reputation in England & Wales, with no proof of damage, and so thereby actionable per se, it is entirely correct to say one can "easily sue any people who say unkind things about you, even if the things they say are true".

The justification defence only comes into the litigation process at a later stage...

Tony Lloyd said...


What Jack said.

Plus a reminder that justification is not identical to truth. And that the jury do not decide whether the words are true. (They may be asked to decide whether the words are justified).

Richard said...

@Jack of Kent

So what you're saying is that you can "easily sue" for libel about things that are true, because you can initiate proceedings - even though you are bound to lose once you actually "get to court".

Well it's just as simple (in many cases simpler) to start proceedings for all sorts of other types of claim - negligence, breach of contract, harassment, unfair dismissal, etc - and you'll only lose once you actually "get to court". So on your analysis you can "easily sue" for all these things (even though you will lose), which strikes me as ridiculous.

If you think I'm wrong, please explain yourself properly, and not with arrogant yet extremely vague accusations of "not properly considering the applicable procedural law".

Don't get me wrong, I do agree with you that the legal fees racked up in libel cases are often absurdly high, and the courts should not be awarding such costs against losing parties. But that's a separate point and quite obviously not the one I made in my previous post.

Richard said...

@Tony Lloyd

Agreed, justification is not identical to truth. But it is easier to establish than truth, not more difficult. What it requires is that the words are at least "substantially true". A defendant is therefore protected if some of what he said is in fact not true, so long as the gist of it is.

Tony Lloyd said...


Say Jack said I was"balding", which is true and I sued.

I do not have to give any evidence at all that I have a full head of hair. The jury would not be asked whether "Tony is balding" is true. They are just asked whether Jack has justification. Ignoring the my admission above and, perhaps, my blogger ID photo Jack does not have justification. I win the case.

This is different to other laws. If I sue Jack for trespass I have to show that he was on my land, if I sue him for damaging my car I have to give some reason for believing he damaged my car. If I sue him for libel I just have to show that he wrote something nasty: not that it wasn't true.

Richard said...

@Tony Lloyd

It obviously wouldn't be defamatory to say that you are balding, so the case would have been struck out (with costs) before trial. If Jack put in a defence of justification and you put no evidence in response then your case would again be liable to be struck out. But supposing the case somehow came to trial:

The term 'justification' sometimes causes confusion, but it is substantial truth, no more. If Jack put forward a defence of justification then the jury WOULD be asked if it was at least substantially true that you were bald (it is possible that the actual question asked would be whether Jack had justification, but if so it would be clearly explained to them that this meant whether or not what he said was substantially true). You would not win your case.

As to it not being like other cases, it is right to say that, technically, libel claimants do not have to show the words to be false. But if the defendant shows that the words are substantially true, he has a complete defence. So in practice, the claimant does have to show the words are false, otherwise he will lose.

As to whether this is right, let's say A says that B once touched a child inappropriately. Is it fairer for the law to presume A's words false and require him to show that B did indeed once touch a child inappropriately; or to presume B guilty and require him to somehow prove that he has never touched any child inappropriately? It's surely the former, which is the current state of the law, isn't it?

Jack of Kent said...


Only trespass shares with libel the preocedural distinction of a tort being actionable per se. All the other causes of action which you mention require the claimant to allege some kind of damage to launch the claim in the first place. All which is required to launch a libel claim is (a) a defamatory statement (whether true or not) in respect of (b) a reputation within the jurisdiction.

Not really sure I can add any more in response to your lenghty comments, but I am reading your expositions with interest and amusement.

ps Balding is not defamatory, and certainly not true in my case, as anyone who knows me IRL will quickly testify; oddly, however, the courts not long ago did hold that "ugly" was defamatory...

David said...

@ Jack of Kent

You said:
"Oooh, David! Do I discern an implied threat to go legalistic against a chiropractic critic?
That worked so well last time :-)"

No, you detect a sense of double standards where a blogger feels that he can ridicule a professional association for defending its reputation, while he blatantly disregards the law of copyright for the sake of a cheap gag.

You are one of the band of bloggers campaigning in favour of Simon Singh's defence of his defamation of the BCA. You also put yourself forward as an arbiter of good law, yet apparently see no problem with your friend abusing the good name of a well respected publisher.

My comment about the hijacking of the Ladybird name and logo has nothing to do with the content of the piece, only the asinine, and I suspect illegal, nature of its delivery.

Eventually the true nature of one's beliefs shows through. In your case this means that, although you generally give an interesting and legally incisive view on events, your prejudice has now come to the surface.

However, this is of less interest than the discussion the Richard has brought forward which is rather more substantive.

Steve said...


I'm curious as to where you think a copyright infringment has occured in the above? I'm no lawyer but i fail to see a copyright infringment...

Denise said...

Absolutely brilliant, thank you. I am a huge fan of Simon Singh (and Tim Minchin!), and this libel case pains me greatly.

Richard said...

@ Jack

If you are declining to respond to the substance of my comments then I shall do the same in return, save to correct one inaccuracy in your comment. The courts have not held "ugly" to be defamatory. It was held (by a majority) in Berkoff v Burchill that to say, of a man who makes his living as an actor, that he was "hideously ugly" was arguably defamatory as it might lead people to shun him. Whether it was actually defamatory or not would, as usual, be a question for the jury. You can read the judgment here:

If you're going to hold yourself out as some kind of legal authority, please make sure you get your facts straight.

Jack of Kent said...

Hi Richard

Do cheer up: it's Christmas! All because you are trolling, there is no need to be a Mr Grumpy!

Anyway, on Berkoff v Burchill, the preferred internet report is of course at:

I note you say: "The courts have not held "ugly" to be defamatory."

However, you will see from the case report that in the, er, High Court it was held (by Sir Maurice Drake):

"For that reason, albeit with hesitation, I hold that to call a person "hideously ugly" is defamatory."

How did you miss that?

Whoopsie... :-)

The appeal of this High Court decision was then dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Hi David

"Eventually the true nature of one's beliefs shows through. In your case this means that, although you generally give an interesting and legally incisive view on events, your prejudice has now come to the surface"

Thank you for the compliment :-)

Yes, I must admit, I am rather on Simon's side in this misconceived legal case.

But I am afraid that, whatever the intellectual property point you are trying to make, it may not be anything to do with copyright...

Merry Christmas :-)

David said...

@ Jack of Kent

It's no revelation that you're on simon Singh's side in his defense of his defamation. What is not clear is whether your position is purely on a point of law (as you like to suggest from your blog postings) or whether this is a reflection of your bias against chiropractic?

Seeing as how you're the legal clever-clogs around here, perhaps you could enlighten us as to what aspect of intellectual property protection law Crispian is in contravention of in his abuse of the Ladybird name and logo?

Merry Christmas!

David said...

@ Steve,

Unfortunately Steve, there is a bias against chiropractors. Simon Singh was taken to task when he refused to retract the defamatory comment he made about the British Chiropractic Association.

Since having the libel case against him found proven, Mr Singh has managed to muster a degree of support from some well known names (as well as a number of excitable wannabes looking for a cause) and been encouraged to appeal against the decision made against him.

This support has been the result of a great deal of misinformation promulgated on various blogs, which has resulted in a concerted campaign against chiropractors that is entirely out of proportion to the matter involved.

It has been dressed-up as a public safety issue, demonising chiropractors as "frauds" and the British Chiropractic Association as "bullies", to use your words.

My comment about the bias against chiropractors is based on the fact that this blogging activity is a result of the sycophantic support for Mr Singh, rather than any real concerns about the claims made by chiropractors.

If it were truly about the perceived risk to the public because the claims made by SOME chiropractors, the far greater number of osteopaths and physiotherapists who make similar, or greater, claims would also be targeted in this campaign.

The fact that they are not being targeted does, de facto, imply bias against chiropractors.

Crispian Jago said...

Just a quick postscript to thank everyone who has taken the time comment on this post. As nice as it is to receive praise and confirmation of my viewpoint, I am equally delighted to have received a number of coherent and erudite opinions that do not fully align with my own. I have read these all with interest and certainly recognise some of the criticisms. I shall not however attempt to debate the points made as others seem to be making a perfectly good job of it.
Thanks again

Bart said...

Is there any chance of getting these books published?

If they could be done in a inexpensive pamphlet form, I would be glad to pony up for a few boxes. I would love to slip these into the magazine racks every time I need to visit the doctor.

Richard said...


Just to clarify, the Berkoff case, including the words you quote, are about calling someone (in particular an actor) "hideously" ugly, not merely ugly. As the judgments also makes perfectly plain, it is not for the judge to rule whether the words are in fact defamatory, but rather whether they are capable of so being. It is therefore misleading to state, as you did, that "the courts not long ago did hold that "ugly" was defamatory."

Apologies if correcting inaccurate statements amounts to "trolling", and Merry Christmas!

Olle said...

Thanks for this hilariously serious piece of work, and particularly the funny comments by some of your opponents. :-)
Thanks also for the link to It was new to me, but reminded me of another must-read prophet-of-the-ultimate-truth, e.g. at
This will enlighten your New Year, so let me wish you all a Happy Such!

thom said...

@ David: "Simon Singh was taken to task when he refused to retract the defamatory comment he made about the British Chiropractic Association.

Since having the libel case against him found proven, Mr Singh has managed to muster a degree of support from some well known names ..."

This is news to me. I'm not a lawyer but AFAIK there is only an allegation of defamation (that rests on a particularly narrow interpretation of a few words in Simon Singh's article). The only ruling so far has been on the meaning of those words and that's just been overturned on appeal.

David said...

@ Palinurus

The interpretation that Justice Eady gave to the words Singh used in his piece was exactly that which Singh intended. It is also exactly that which the massive majority of readers of the article would have taken.

That meaning has not been overturned at appeal. Singh has so far only won the right to make an appeal against it.

soul_biscuit said...

@ David

I confess to not having followed this as closely as others perhaps have, but it strikes me as simple.

Simon Singh calls chiropractic out on making some allegedly bogus claims for itself.

Chiropractic, rather than summoning evidence to substantiate these claims, which would be enough to silence any criticism, chooses to sue.

You may also recall that in the aftermath of this, many chiropractic websites removed a large number of similar claims, presumably because they knew there was no evidence to support them.

The bias, then, is not against chiropractic in particular, but against cowardly bullies who engage the machinery of the state to squash anyone who dares to direct attention to their bullshit.

Tony Lloyd said...

@ soul_biscuit (and @ Dave)

I don't think the bias was against chiropractic, but it is now.

Let's go to anecdotal evidence and look a case study: me.

I had never even heard of chiropractic before the case, so I wasn’t biased at all against chiropractic before the case.

When the case broke I read into Simon Singh's comments:

1. If you promote a bullshit treatment you are being bad (a “bullshit treatment” being one with no good evidence base)
2. For asthma, colic, bedwetting etc. chiropractic is a bullshit treatment.
3. The BCA have been promoting chiropractic for asthma, colic, bedwetting etc.
4. Therefore the BCA is bad

Now I agree with "1" and “3” is not in doubt, so the question is whether chiropractic is a bullshit treatment for asthma, colic, bedwetting etc. If I had read this before the case my conclusion would have been:

“That’s interesting, this writer chappie thinks chiropractic is a bullshit treatment for asthma, colic, bedwetting etc. I wonder if it is?”

The whole thing hangs on “I wonder if it is”. Writer chappies have told me all sorts of things before which are complete bollocks. They’ve told me that you can’t get Aids from heterosexual sex in the UK, that the housing boom would go on forever and that Gillian McKeith knows what she’s talking about. I’m still not biased against chiropractic as Simon Singh might be talking bollocks.

So is chiropractic a bullshit treatment for asthma, colic, bedwetting etc? If it is not then there exists good evidence for it. If there exists good evidence for it the BCA can publish that evidence (in the space offered by the Guardian) and the argument is over: Simon Singh is just another writer chappie telling me bollocks. If, however, chiropractic is a bullshit treatment for asthma, colic, bedwetting etc then there is no good evidence, so the BCA can’t publish that evidence and are forced to use the “shutupshutupshutup” defence. The BCA used the “shutupshutupshutup” defence.

Now this still might not mean that chiropractic is a bullshit treatment for asthma, colic, bedwetting etc. The evidence might be there and the BCA used the “shutupshutupshutup” defence because they are complete idiots. So I wrote to the BCA and asked them for the plethora. They did not send me the list. Why? We got the answer when they did publish the “plethora”, their hand picked list of the very best evidence: evidence that I could see was shit.

So it is a bullshit treatment and Simon Singh wasn’t talking bollocks, yet the BCA sought to silence him and tried to mislead me (there is a “plethora”). So:

1. The BCA promote bullshit treatments
2. Try to silence critics
3. Tried to mislead me

I am now very, very biased against chiropractic. Simon Singh’s article did not reduce the standing and reputation of the BCA in the eyes of this reasonable person. The BCA’s actions did. The BCA defamed themselves and have left me with a deep-seated prejudice against them. If Dave is unhappy that the public (at least this member of it) thinks chiropractic is quackery and the BCA, at best, fools then he should attack those whose fault it is: the BCA.

soul_biscuit said...

Great post, Tony! That seems about the shape of it.

Alice said...

Hey, Crispian, you get woo spam!

(I acknowledge plagiarism from someone else who wrote that, I can't remember if it was Zeno, Simon Perry, or someone else!)

Oh, and have Penguin or Ladybird Books got upset at your beautiful parody? Penguin Galaxy certainly hasn't. I love the Happy Ending. This is pure genius - many congratulations :) :) :)

barmonger said...

Brilliantly done. A fantastic summary of the entire case for anyone who hasn't been following it all along.

Stefaan Vossen said...

Very funny (no seriously, very funny, even if I am a chiropractor) Would love the "expensive car tho!
Stefaan Vossen

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Yeah I agree with you guys :)


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Wow thanks, just what I needed to hear right now, love seeing the actual book right on the page as well hehe

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Hi work dude. Excellent satire as usual.

But we all need to remember that the Government have a nasty habit of dropping pre-election promises when their mates put the pressure on.

This needs to be one where we don't let them off the hook!!

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Chiropractic care is used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches.

Tony Lloyd said...

Hi Orem Chiropractic

Nice try posing as the reasonable end of chiropractic.

Your "Homeopathic Assistant" is a bit of a give away though.

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Chiropractor said...

It's true that there are many chiropractors out there that promote treatments with little evidence. A course in neurology will tell you that rubbing your arm or moving a joint (an adjustment) can close the pain gate and block pain signals.

That same course also shows that we have an effect on the sympathetic nervous system, which can control the blood flow to all the various organs of the body.

This is called Sympatheticotonia and was studied by Irvin Korr, but he stopped studying it in the 1970's and the research has never resumed.

The point is, find a good chiropractor, who will exclude things like GERD, allergies, and other treatable conditions.

Finally, do not think that just because your baby or child is young that their spines are immaculate. Being born is not easy and a c-section is no better when compared to the forces put into a babies spine(Far exceeding a typical adjustment force for a child). And how many times has your toddler fallen in one day?

Trauma can lead to biochemical changes in a joint, less motion, and less afferentation(nerve signals to the brain).

Chiropractors look for the lack of motion, fix it, and hope that we got there in time for the body to heal the changes to the joint surface. Maybe this was a factor in the colicky baby, maybe it wasn't.

Or option #2: Ignore the falls and traumas. Your body continues to try and heal the joints that don't move properly, eventually the joints wear down from the inflammatory chemicals causing instability that you body stabilizes by laying down extra bone (arthritis). The joints above and below make up for the lost motion which your body interprets as instability and the whole process begins again.

Or option #3: Maybe it will just go away? Treatment is always your choice, but please don't tell me that your baby is deficient in prescription medications.

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