Saturday, 27 February 2010

MoD Endgame: new UFO reports destroyed

Britain's Ministry of Defence is destroying all UFO reports it receives so it can avoid answering Freedom of Information requests.

This decision means that any future sightings - even those made by reliable sources such as aircrew, radar and police - will in future be shredded after 30 days, according to a formerly secret document released to me in response to a request under the FOIA.

I released copies of the original documents to the Press Association and Channel 4 News who have exclusively made them available to the public as a simple download from their website.

According to a November 2009 MoD briefing, the new policy took effect immediately after the decision to close the UFO desk and the public 'UFO hotline'. Officials said these "serve no Defence purpose and merely encourage the generation of correspondence of no Defence value." A defence minister, Kevan Jones MP, approved the decision:
"...that reported sightings...should be answered by a standard letter and, on the advice of Corporate Memory and The National Archives, should be retained for 30 days and then destroyed, largely removing any future FOI liability and negating the need to release future files post 30 November 2009."
The justification given for the decision is a tripling in the numbers of UFO sightings reported to the MoD, from an average of 150 reports per year during the past decade to a whopping 634 in 2009. "The increased workload caused by this now exceeding the level of staff resource allocated to the task and impacting on other tasks," according to the briefing. No doubt many of these additional reports were made as a result of the campaign by The Sun newspaper to persuade its readership that orange lights floating the skies were alien spaceships rather than Chinese lanterns.

The MoD has for some years been looking for an excuse to close down the UFO desk and this tripling of reports has provided the opportunity they needed. Anticipating the decision would attract outrage from UFOlogists, the MoD predicted they "may individually, or as a group, mount a vociferous, but short-lived campaign to reinstate the 'UFO Hotline' suggesting that, by not investigating UFOs, MoD is failing its Defence commitments." It adds: "It is possible that there will be a resulting short term increase in public and Parliamentary correspondence [but] the press interest is...likely to be more frivolous in tone than critical."

Clearly rattled by claims they were hiding information on UFOs, MoD reveal they had "deliberately avoided formal approaches to other Governments on this issue [as these] would be viewed by 'ufologists' as evidence of international collaboration and conspiracy." As a result MoD officials searched the US Department of Defence website where they found a press release that stated "the issue of UFOs is no longer being investigated by the US Government". This policy was implemented following the closure of Project Blue Book in 1969 and the subsequent transfer of records to the US National Archives (NARA).

As I suspected all along, the closure of the UFO desk and the decision to transfer all remaining MoD files to The National Archives are linked. Referring to the US example the British MoD briefing adds: "This is broadly in line with our proposed way forward. Public sources suggest that other Governments are taking a similar approach to ours, with the Canadian, French and Danish Governments publishing their historic UFO files in recent years."

The five page briefing released simultaneously to me and colleague Joe McGonagle was originally circulated to Secretary of State Bob Ainsworth, senior civil servants and military officials including the Chief of Air Staff, and intelligence branches of RAF Air Command on 11 November last year.

It included a "defence newsbrief" that said the decision to end all further UFO investigations was taken because the task "diverts resources away from core defence business...MoD has no interest in receiving reports of UFO sightings and will not be actioning the reports that we receive post November 2009."

A Defence Instruction and Notice spelling out the new policy was circulated to all military establishments in the UK on 1 December (see copy, above right). It contained an order that "stations...contacted by members of the public are advised not to encourage them to report a UFO sighting or expect an investigation to take place."

The new policy means that any UFO reports received in future will be answered by a standard letter, with the correspondence destroyed within 30 days: "This would mean that there would be no FOI liability and no requirement to release any further files to the National Archives, since the only filing generated would be copies of the standard response."

It also allows MoD to extend its ongoing transfer of files to The National Archives to include all the most recent Air Command UFO files opened before 30 November 2009 when the decision was implemented. This means that by the end of the disclosure programme MoD will retain no further paperwork on UFOs.

The document concludes: "There is no merit in maintaining a dedicated UFO desk in Air Command, nor in adding to the staff resource allocated to the UFO task. The current UFO staff resource should be redeployed to other public and Parliamentary tasks as soon as possible."

Intriguingly, this decision does not apply to, or signify any change in "the standing arrangements for control and defence of UK airspace." Under the question: "are our skies being left undefended?" the press briefing answers that: "There will be no change to current arrangements and air space integrity will be maintained through the existing mixture of civil and military radar and aircraft on quick reaction alert."

Concluding the policy, a defence official writes that MoD's public response to inquiries on UFOs in future will stress that:
  • MoD has no opinion on the existence or otherwise of extra terrestrials
  • In more than fifty years, no UFO sighting reported to the [MoD] has indicated the existence of any military threat to the UK
  • [MoD] have a responsibility to use defence resources only for activities which contribute to the defence and security of the UK
  • No defence benefit arises from the receipt of UFO reports from the public and responding to [them] diverts MoD resources from tasks of relevance to defence.
The disclosure of this document makes it evident this is the endgame as far as the MoD are concerned. Clearly, in a time of economic crisis savings have to be made and public spending cuts provided the opportunity they needed to finally rid themselves of a subject they regard as a nuisance. Indeed, the similarity between the concluding statement and the recommendations of the University of Colorado report that led to the closure of the USAF's Project Blue Book in 1969 bear close scrutiny.

But if MoD have learned anything from 50 years experience it should be that UFOs will simply not go away. I suspect that the next time a near-miss incident involving civil or military aircraft occurs, they will be forced to rethink this somewhat short-sighted policy. Only time will tell.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Take us to your leader?

The release of the fifth tranche of UFO files by The National Archives has been widely covered by the UK and international media.

It didn't surprise me that many led with the ludicrous story about UFO sightings in the vicinity of former Tory leader Michael Howard's home in Kent shortly before the 1997 General Election.

The basis for the claim was that assorted people saw lights in the sky and "a large triangular object" hovering above a field near Folkestone one night in March that year. Examining the details closely, the link between the "UFO" and Howard was, to be generous, a little tenuous. A UFO enthusiast was quoted by the BBC as saying that the craft didn't appear to be interested in the girl who saw it "[which] left me wondering if its purpose had something to do with Mr Howard."

Quite what that means I've no idea, but that is what this entire story amounts to. According to the MoD file on the incident (a whitewash, of course) Howard wasn't at home at the time, there was no security alert and nothing unusual was seen on radar - which suggests the UFO was most likely a perfectly ordinary helicopter or low-flying aircraft.

So if aliens were involved, they hadn't done their homework as Howard was out on the campaign trail. Perhaps they were actually looking for his colleague, John Redwood, who is frequently caricatured as "Mr Spock".

Coupled with Ann Widdecombe's declaration that there was "something of the night" about Howard, this story was a gift for the press: "Was Michael Howard buzzed by aliens?" asked BBC News Online), whilst The Guardian ran the story on its front page with the headline: "Earthlings, take us to your leader...of the opposition."

Inevitably, extraterrestrial interest in Mr Howard was top of the agenda when I was interviewed by John Humphries on BBC Radio 4's Today programme yesterday morning. The BBC had spoken to Howard, who had said he had never taken the story seriously.

Far more interesting, I told Humphries, was the account in the files describing RAF gun camera film of UFOs seen by MoD official Ralph Noyes at a secret screening in 1970.

Some newspapers did cover this intriguing anecdote, along with my comments linking changes in UFO shapes with depictions of advanced aircraft in film and media, from the "flying saucers" in 1950s B-movies to the black triangular UFOs reported from the late 1980s when photographs of the USAF Stealth fighter and B-2 flying wing were first declassified.

This line was used to full effect by the BBC on their World Briefing and by Channel 4 news, which quoted me saying that either the aliens were watching our TV shows and adapting the shape of their craft in response, or there was a link between popular culture and what people reported as UFOs.:

"It's impossible to prove a direct link between what people are reading and watching and what they report as UFOs," I said, "but one interpretation could be that the latest advances in technology may be influencing what people see in the sky."

And finally...the podcast I recorded for The National Archives' launch of the latest set of UFO files is now available on YouTube and has had 150,000 views so far.

Some of the comments are hilarious, but my favourite says: "Dr David Clarke explains away every incedent [sic] as something not related with extraterrestrials. I don't know how or why that makes him an 'expert on UFOs'." MoD is just purging files of nonsense and are fully aware of what's going on." Another corker, from 'AristotleP', adds: "Dr David Clarke is a government sponsored UFO debunker."

Kevin Randle once said that you haven't made it in the wacky world of UFOlogy until you are accused of working for the CIA or MI5. That's a sure sign that when your detractors are unable to sustain any form of logical argument based upon facts, their last desperate option is to say you are a government agent paid to debunk their cherished beliefs.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

UFOs Galore: 24 files released by The National Archives

The National Archives have released the fifth collection of UFO files from the Ministry of Defence. The files can be downloaded free of charge for one month from the TNA UFO website which also contains a 10-minute audio/visual summary of the contents and a guide to the highlights.

As TNA’s consultant for the project I have been helping to prepare for what is the largest release of files to date. There are 24 files in this tranche containing more than 6,000 pages of documents spanning 1994-2000. The correspondence files span the period 1994-99 and the UFO report files begin in August 1996 and end in September 2000.

1996 was one of the busiest years for UFO reporting, with 609 incidents logged by the MoD. The popularity of the subject, encouraged by TV, films and media hype, continued into 1997 when 425 reports were received. But from that point there was a steady decline in reporting, with 193 incidents in 1998, 228 in 1999 and 210 in 2000.

It is important to note that most of these reports should not be regarded as “UFOs”, as few if any were investigated or followed up to the stage at which it was possible to eliminate even the most basic explanations. An Air Ministry study in 1955 found that 90% of sightings they received at that time could be explained if inquiries were made before the scent went cold. In the 1950s sightings were investigated by air intelligence officers, who found many could be accounted for as balloons, aircraft, fireballs and celestial objects.

By 1996 when these MoD files were compiled, few of the incidents were investigated thoroughly and even the most interesting were simply filed away. This was due to lack of time and resources, as desk officers were distracted dealing with correspondence with UFOlogists and members of the public who believed they were hiding facts about alien visitors.

This does not mean the files contain nothing of interest. This tranche contains a fascinating example of a “Close Encounter of the Second Kind”, the account of a man who suffered an unexplained illness after he was struck by a beam of light from the sky. The identity of the witness – who worked in a funeral parlour at Newport, Gwent – has been redacted from the file. But a two-page report on the case completed by an officer at a RAF base in Wales the morning after the encounter, on 27 January 1997, describes the incident in bare detail.

Whilst driving near Ebbw Vale at 10.40 the witness saw “a massive star” approaching his car from the east. Then a “tube of light” came down from the sky at a 45 degree angle, surrounding him. He stopped and switched his headlights off as “the light encircled the car, remaining for perhaps five minutes.” During this time he got out of the car and walked through the brilliant light. He noticed there was no sound as would have been expected if the light was a searchlight from a helicopter or aircraft. Very frightened, he began to feel ill and vomited later that night. As he returned to the car he noticed it was covered in dirt or dust and found his radio and mobile phone would not work. When he called the RAF the following morning he was still feeling ill and had developed a skin condition that needed medical treatment. But that is all the brief report tells us. There is no evidence in the file to suggest the MoD followed up this startling incident or collected evidence from the scene (DEFE 24/1988)

Highlights from the UFO Files/1

UFOs on Radar

DEFE 24/1977 – contains papers on the Boston Stump radar incident (see my 2006 Fortean Times article for full background). Unusual phenomena seen on radar are oft-cited by UFOlogists as examples of hard evidence for the existence of “structured craft of unknown origin.” The key radar case in these papers occurred during a UFO flap over East Anglia on 5 October 1996. Police reported seeing flashing coloured lights over The Wash and alerted the coastguard, who contacted the RAF. This call led radar operators to link the UFO scare with an unidentified “blip” they could see hovering above Boston in Lincolnshire. But as this "UFO" did not move for nine hours – until dawn broke - cool observation confirmed it was a "permanent echo" caused by the 273ft (83m) spire of St Botolph’s Church, known locally as Boston Stump. The lights seen and captured on video by the police (still taken from police video - above right) were easily explained as bright stars which faded in the dawn sky. This illustrates how easy it is, even for experienced operators, to misinterpret natural phenomena seen on radar as something extraordinary, particularly when a UFO flap is underway.

DEFE 24/2008 – UFO on radar, Prestwick Airport, Glasgow. Air traffic controllers at Prestwick in Scotland tracked a huge UFO on the morning of 15 February 1999. The blip appeared to be ten miles wide and two miles long and travelled at a speed estimated at 1000 knots across the Irish Sea. This report triggered an investigation by RAF Air Defence experts. They examined the video tape from Prestwick control tower and compared its contents with recordings from RAF air defence radars. This revealed there were no aircraft in the area at the time and nothing unusual was detected by RAF radars. The conclusion was: “recorded radar data replays do not support the sighting”.

DEFE 24/1989 – Radar/visual UFO. Even more intriguing is a brief report of a sighting made by the crew of a fishing trawler in the North Sea, 19 miles northeast of Fraserburgh. At lunchtime on 15 August 1997 one spotted a “round, flat bodied, shiny object” at a distance of less than a mile from the ship at low altitude. The object was visible for 30 minutes during which it was picked on the ship’s surface search radar and was observed by the other three crew members. The UFO approached the trawler, then moved out to sea before it “vanished almost instantaneously.”

Physical Evidence?

DEFE 24/1988 – In March 1997 mysterious "angel hair" was dumped by a UFO on a suburban garden in Birmingham. Angel hair is a cobweb or jelly-like substance that drops from UFOs and has also been reported during experiences with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Like fairy food and ectoplasm it quickly evaporates before it can be examined. In this case the observer was alerted by barking dogs to the presence of a large blue triangular-shaped object hovering silently over his garden at 4 AM one morning. As he went outside the UFO suddenly shot off into sky and disappeared, leaving behind “a silky-white substance on the tree-tops”, some of which he collected inside a jam jar. There is nothing in the file to suggest MoD were interested in obtaining this sample for further analysis. This became just another routine call logged by the UFO desk and forgotten about

Alien Abduction and Cattle Mutilations

DEFE 24/1979 contains a policy statement on reports of "alien abductions" prepared by UFO desk officer Kerry Philpott in 1996 in response to a letter from Welsh UFOlogist Chris Fowler. As the existence of intelligent ET life is not proven, the subject is “a non-issue” as far as MoD were concerned. The letter adds that “any form of abduction is a civil police matter but can only be investigated if there is any evidence to support the claim.” Similarly, in response to a letter asking if MoD had investigated links between UFOs, BSE and unexplained cattle mutilations, Philpott responded: “criminal aspects of animal mutilations are matters for the civil police, who would investigate any claims based upon the evidence available.”

UFO crash at US listening post?

DEFE 24/1981 – contains a bizarre claim linking RAF Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire, the controversial joint US/UK base for electronic eavesdropping with UFOs. In 1997 a UFOlogist wrote to the base claiming that two farmers nearby had seen a disc-shaped object inside the base perimeter escorted by guards. The farmers were ordered to move away from the perimeter fence. In a joint statement, the base and MoD said "no UFO/flying saucer has landed in the vicinity of Menwith Hill and the base had no connection with UFO research.”

Rendlesham Forest Incident

DEFE 24/2011 - The ‘Rendlesham Forest’ UFOs reported by USAF security policemen at RAF Woodbridge, Suffolk had become a cause celebre by 1999. In this year Scottish UFOlogist James Easton published copies of the original witness statements made by the USAF security police in January 1981 that he had obtained from an American UFO group. Copies of these statements were sent to the MoD and placed on a departmental file.

Highlights from the UFO files/part 2

Gun Camera Film

DEFE 24/1966 – contains a letter to the MoD from Ralph Noyes (pictured right), a retired senior MoD official who had responsibility for UFO incidents. In his 1994 letter Noyes describes seeing gun camera film of unidentified aerial phenomena captured by RAF fighter pilots during the 1950s. He claims this was shown at a secret sub ground film-show arranged for Air Defence staff at the MoD Main Building in 1970 when Noyes was head of DS8 (one of the branches responsible for UFOs). Noyes’ letter says a representative from the Meteorological Office was also present.

“…we were shown some slides, purportedly from aerial photographs taken by air crew. The highlight was a couple of brief clips of what I understood to be gun-camera material obtained as far back as 1956…the material was, on the whole, unimpressive: fuzzy greyish blobs in the daylight shots; small glowing globular objects in the night films. We were invited to comment. A civilian – the Met Office man, I think – suggested that we were witnessing unusual meteorological events. One of the Ops people said that ground-radar and air-radar responses had been reported on occasion. Somebody reminded us of the tendency of radar to produce spurious images on occasion. No conclusions were reached….Reflecting on this episode, I now rather feel that somebody in [Air Defence] had become uneasy about the occasional reports from air crew of unusual aerial objects but did not wish to expose himself to ridicule. The small informal gathering in the cinema was an opportunity to test the reactions of a few of us to the unusual objects caught on film. The lack of much response from any of us probably persuaded [him] to drop the subject.”

Despite a search of the archives by MoD staff in 1993-94 no trace of these films could be found and Noyes adds: “Quite possibly, the photographic material was simply scrapped, or ‘pinched’ for somebody’s private collection of curiosa, or conceivably passed to the Met Office.”

Politicians and UFOs

Some UFOlogists are obsessive letter-writers and this release contains a number of files dealing with “persistent correspondents” who have plagued the MoD and politicians with demands for information about UFOs. DEFE 24/2016, for instance, runs to 318 pages of correspondence between a Welsh UFOlogist, Dr Colin Ridyard, and the MoD. His campaign began in 1996 and ended in 2000 when Ridyard made an official complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman after his requests for disclosure of UFO documents were refused. During these four years Ridyard wrote 35 letters to the MoD, encouraged his MP to submit three Parliamentary Enquiries and organised a petition that was submitted to the House of Commons.

Other files feature a series of letters from UFO believers addressed first to the Tory Prime Minister John Major and then, from 1997, the newly-elected Tony Blair. These ask for the Prime Minister’s views on UFOs and alien life and appeal for the release of secret documents they believe the MoD are with-holding. On this evidence, David Cameron should expect a full postbag from UFO believers when he enters Downing Street in May! (for examples see DEFE 24/1967, DEFE 24/1968, DEFE 24/2011, DEFE 24/1969).

DEFE 24/1994 contains details of one of the most hyped, and least substantial, UFO stories of 1997. This concerns a supposed UFO sighting in the vicinity of the Kent home of the former Tory Home Secretary, Michael Howard. The basis of the story was that a journalist and others had seen a triangular shaped object hovering near Howard’s home one night in March. The connection with Howard was tenuous, to say the least, and inquiries by the RAF found there was no unusual air activity or any security alert in the area at the time.

DEFE 24/2017 - Councillor Billy Buchanan, of Falkirk District Council, wrote to PM John Major in 1994 asking for an inquiry into a series of unexplained UFO sightings around Bonnybridge, a small town between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Press reports had described this region as "the Bonnybridge Triangle”. In his letter Cllr Buchanan claimed more than 600 separate incidents had been reported over a two year period. In response MoD said there was no need for them to investigate anything as they had received only a handful of reports from the Falkirk area. They felt most could be explained by aircraft overflying the area. In 1997 Cllr Buchanan wrote to Tony Blair again requesting an investigation but received a standard response from the MoD.

Nick Pope

DEFE 24/2000In 1995 former MoD desk officer Nick Pope announced he had become a believer in UFOs and alien abductions. Whilst still a MoD employee, he published a book and interviews appeared in a number of national newspapers including the Daily Mail. As a result, in 1996 a member of the public quizzed the MoD on how they could justify their dismissive policy towards UFOs when one of their own officials was openly claiming there was evidence that UK airspace had been penetrated by ET craft. MoD stonewalled this perfectly reasonable question and told the inquirer that Pope’s statements were his own personal views and did not reflect MoD policy. This response led to an official complaint against the MoD by the writer, who said his “enquiries have been deliberately ignored and my correspondence has been met with bland and patronizing replies.”

DEFE 24/1967 – This file contains correspondence between the Spanish UFOlogist Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos and the MoD’s UFO desk officer Nick Pope concerning a flap of UFO reports over the UK in the early hours of 31 March 1993. This has subsequently become known as “the Cosford Incident” and is cited by Pope as the one unexplained case that helped to transform him from a skeptic to a believer in the existence of UFOs piloted by extraterrestrials. However, this file shows that Ballester Olmos supplied Pope with a comprehensive explanation for the sightings on 21 March 1994. He enclosed copies of a NORAD statement and computer simulation which shows the UFO was in fact the rocket that launched the Russian ELINT satellite Cosmos 2238. This was confirmed by other sightings made in Ireland and France on the same night, which resulted in a press release by the French CNES Space Agency confirming the Cosmos rocket as the source. In his response to Ballester Olmos dated 6 April 1994, Nick Pope makes the following statement: “I think it is clear that most of the UFO sightings that occurred on the night in question can be attributed to this event.”

All these files can be downloaded free of charge for the first month from

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Libel Reform Campaign and Simon Singh

This article under my byline was published by the Sheffield Telegraph, 4 February 2010

A science writer who is being sued for expressing his views on alternative medicine brings his campaign for a change in the libel laws to Sheffield next week.

Dr Simon Singh, who has a MBE for services to science, says if he loses his battle - which reaches the Court of Appeal on 22 February - it will be a massive blow against freedom of speech.

The writer’s Libel Reform campaign is supported by a galaxy of celebrities from the world of science, the arts and comedy, including Ricky Gervais, Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins and former government chief scientist Sir David King.

Sheffield Hallam MP and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has added his voice to the campaign, saying he is “deeply concerned” about the chilling effect libel laws are having on scientific debate and investigative journalism.

“Our libel law has turned a country once famed for its traditions of freedom and liberty into a legal farce where people and corporations with money can impose silence on others at will,” he said. “I believe in raucous freedom of speech, not gagging orders in our courts.”

A pledge to reform the libel laws was adopted by the Lib Dems at last year’s party conference and an early day motion – signed by 159 MPs from all political parties – is adding to the pressure on Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who is reviewing the libel laws, to make a radical change.

Dr Singh has a PhD in particle physics and has worked as a director and producer on TV programmes including Tomorrow’s World and Horizon. He was sued by the British Chiropractic Association two years ago after he claimed the organisation “happily promotes bogus treatments” in an article published by a national newspaper. They demanded an apology and retraction and won a preliminary court ruling against the writer last June.

In the ruling, Mr Justice Eady ruled that Dr Singh’s use of the word “bogus” meant he was accusing the association of being dishonest in promoting treatments that it knew did not work. Dr Singh refutes Eady’s interpretation, claiming that he simply meant that “alternative therapists who offer treatments unsupported by reasonable evidence are deluded rather than deliberately dishonest.”

Law lords will decide on the outcome of the case at the Court of Appeal in two weeks, but Dr Singh already faces a crippling £100,000 bill for the costs of defending himself to this point.

"Whatever decision they reach will have a great impact," said Dr Singh, who will comment on the legal battle at Sheffield Skeptics in the Pub on 8 February. "It will either reinforce the current situation or overturn the current libel laws."

In the UK the all the weight of proof in a libel action rests on the defendant. Unlike the USA, whose constitution defends the right to freedom of speech, libel in this country depends upon people’s ability to pay. This had led to libel tourism, which Nick Clegg has said is “making a mockery of British justice, with foreign plaintiffs able to bring cases against foreign defendants when the publications in question may have sold just a handful of copies in England.”

People who are sued for libel are not entitled to legal aid and most ordinary people simply cannot afford the huge legal bill to defend themselves in court. The UK Index on Censorship has found the cost of defending a libel action in the UK is one hundred times greater than anywhere in mainland Europe. In a speech to the Royal Society last month Nick Clegg said:
Of course people have the right to protect their reputations from damaging and false statements made recklessly, irresponsibly or with malice. But scientists must be allowed to question claims fearlessly, especially those that relate to medical care, environmental damage and public safety, if we are to protect ourselves against dubious research practices, phoney treatments and vested corporate interests. English libel law as it stands is obstructing that process and threatens the public good as a result. The prospect of a costly, protracted legal battle hangs over journalists, editors and academics seeking to ask basic questions about the evidence for practices they believe may put people at risk.”
Dr Singh added: " When people think about libel they tend to think about celebrities and tabloid exposures. But that is not what this is about. Celebrities have a reputation to defend and the media should not abuse that. However, right now people are being sued for writing about important scientific research. This is not salacious gossip, this is about matters of real public interest.

"Now is the time for the public to sit up and say we want to live in a society where free speech and responsible journalism is something that is valued. If they do then they need to sign up to the Libel Reform campaign petititon put pressure on their MPs to support a change in the law. Politicians are open to this change right now."

*“Trick or Treatment: alternative medicine on trial”, starts at 6.30 pm on Monday, 8 February 2010, at The Lescar on Sharrow Vale Road, Sheffield. Entry £2.