Today I would like to share with you an interesting little exchange that I had a few days ago on TWITTER. Someone who I perhaps should but did not know sent me the following tweet apparently ‘out of the blue’:
“…remember that asthma trial whose results you faked?”
It was clear that the study he referred to was our trial published in THORAX 12 years ago. I found this allegation so absurd that I re-tweeted his tweet, and a third party responded to him by asking: “any evidence for this?”
His answer: ” Yes, I was involved with the study which severely breached its protocols. It should have been abandoned not published”
My reply to this: “Involved as what? I do not recall any breach of protocol”
His next tweet: “Pity, I do. Maybe it’s because you only added your name to the paper”
My response: “Stop telling lies and find a good libel lawyer”
Over the years, I got used to all sorts of attacks, but I feel that this one is quite special. It accuses me first of faking research, then of breaching research protocols, and finally of false authorship of a research paper. To someone whose entire reputation relies on his credibility as a scientist, such very public and entirely false claims are, of course, hugely damaging. I asked myself: Is this libel? Is it defamation? Is it actionable?
Looking for answers, I found an interesting website which explains the relevant English law in some detail:
“A defamatory statement is one which is false and causes damage to a person’s reputation or otherwise does them harm. Libel is the term given to defamation in a permanent form such as in print…
For a person to bring a claim of defamation, the following must apply:
- The statement has to have been made to somebody other than the claimant. It is not defamation if the statement is not heard by anyone but the claimant.
- The statement has to be in words
- The statement may damage the person’s reputation by making people who hear or read the statement think worse of them.
- The statement may expose the claimant to contempt, disliking, hatred or ridicule.
- The statement may cause the claimant to be shunned by society or avoided by people
- The statement must be clearly applicable to the claimant, although they do not necessarily have to be named (e.g. “the head of London Metropolitan Police Force” would be sufficient without explicitly naming the claimant).
- If someone claims that a person has made defamatory statements about them, the onus is on the person who made the statements to prove that the statements are true.”
Subsequently, I tried to find out the identity of my attacker. He is Tony Pinkus who turns out to be the director of Ainsworth Homeopathic Pharmacy, 36 New Cavendish St London W1G 8UF. This fact makes my little exchange much more interesting and exciting. In my view, it begs the following questions:
- Should I ask Ainsworth for an apology?
- Or Pinkus?
- Or perhaps I should sue Ainsworth for libel?
- Or Pinkus?
- Or should I sue both?
Not being a lawyer, I wonder whether any of my readers might advise me. In addition, I will send this post to Ainsworth and will keep you posted about their reply.