Psychic Sally settles £125,000 libel damages from Daily Mail

After two psychic wins in the US last week (see here and here), we have this very disappointing and messed up settlement from the Sally Morgan UK libel accusation.

Daily Mail to pay £125,000 libel damages over TV psychic ‘scam’ claim | Media | guardian.co.uk.

The Daily Mail has apologised and agreed to pay £125,000 in libel damages to a TV psychic it falsely accused of using a hidden earpiece to scam a theatre audience.

Sally Morgan, who has appeared on TV and on stage under the name “Psychic Sally”, complained that the article in September 2011 meant she had “deliberately and dishonestly” tricked her audience in Dublin.

The article, by the magician Paul Zenon, claimed that Morgan had used a hidden earpiece during her performance in order to receive instructions and relay them on stage as if they were messages from the spiritual world.

Her lawyer told the court that the article was “in the context of a general attack on psychics as being charlatans”. Here are some details on the performance that was questioned.

Here’s the thing. WE KNOW some psychics are charlatans. They have been caught cheating people charged with fraud. We DON’T KNOW that psychic powers are real even after all this time. People like Sally refuse to take tests to show that their abilities withstand scrutiny. However, stage psychics don’t even need to cheat with earpieces to pull off a convincing show to a believing audience. There was not enough evidence in this case to show that the earpiece was actually used and the Daily Mail settled the case before heading to trial where they could have lost considerably more.

It’s not as disturbing that the Daily Mail (a quite despicable source for news) was sued for libel. This is a disappointing result that did something worse – made a declaration that psychics are not charlatans. This was about Sally being a charlatan, not all psychics. So that resolution is indeed false.

It’s the 21st century. We can detect subatomic particles yet we can’t detect psychic powers? What the hell is a thinking person supposed to conclude?

sally

More:

Daily Mail agrees pays £125k damages plus costs to TV psychic Sally Morgan over ‘charlatan’ report | PressGazette.

Read about the original article that was at issue.

All Sally stories

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  14 comments for “Psychic Sally settles £125,000 libel damages from Daily Mail

  1. Craig
    June 20, 2013 at 8:01 AM

    Of course Sally knew she would win this case. Didn’t she?

  2. Chris Jensen Romer
    June 20, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    Legally I think the right decision. It was NOT is Sally genuine? that was at stake but were the DM specific allegations factually correct, and if not did they harm Ms Morgan’s reputation.

    • June 20, 2013 at 8:17 AM

      Yes, I think you are right, Chris. This was not the way to address her methods as a psychic or psychics in general.

  3. June 20, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    Evolution has taught many of us (but not the Daily Mail on this occasion) to forget logic and take care about what we say in public. We dare not go beyond your nom-de-plume editor, I doubt it.

  4. Chris Howard
    June 20, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Can anyone say psychic Sally sues, ten times really fast?

  5. One Eyed Jack
    June 20, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Can someone accuse me of something, anything? Please? I could really use $400k.

  6. One Eyed Jack
    June 20, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    Oh, £150,000, not £250,00. Calculation correction. Never mind. I can’t be bothered for a measly $250,000. Hardly worth the trouble of cashing the check. ;-)

  7. June 20, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    Ordinarily I’d be quietly pleased about the Daily Mail getting stuffed in court, but this is one case I’d have been happy for both sides to lose.

    • Chris Jensen Romer
      June 20, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      Rich, yep, exactly.

  8. Chris Jensen Romer
    June 20, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    I hope OK to share this rather relevant article from Prof. Chris French – http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/oct/22/psychic-sally-morgan-invitation-test-powers?newsfeed=true

  9. Andy Reporter
    June 20, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    To answer the writer’s question, a thinking person might conclude that a court of law does not operate the same standards of proof that a science lab is built to test by – but then, its job is different. Further, it might be a good idea to make damn’ sure the facts an accuser relies on are demonstrable to the average person without any chance of misinterpretation. Rationalists set themselves high standards, and this newspaper does not seem to have taken rationalist advice.

    At the same time, newspapers know something that scientists regularly miss: to real human beings, logic is NOT everything. A favourite gag of mine: “Science and religion are the same – they both have no sense of humour, they both think beards and sandals are a great idea, and they both can’t get a date on the weekend”.

  10. June 20, 2013 at 9:13 PM
  11. spookyparadigm
    June 21, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    I think Novella’s comment regarding the libel laws is probably the best guess. In the US, the media get lawsuits dismissed against them when they hype a psychic claiming there are dead bodies under someone’s house. In the UK, reporting someone’s better supported, though not airtight, allegations regarding a psychic gets them successfully sued for just reporting the allegations.

    Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes is almost certainly best.

  12. Andy Reporter
    June 26, 2013 at 5:10 AM

    Free Speech (remember that?) should dictate that your right to speak out is equal to their right to proclaim their powers as real – a drawn game; no court expenses, thank you. But courts exist in the world of people, and reputational damage is something they consider.

    Attacking ideas we find wacky is not a game, and winning can be horrendous. We should have been warned by the case of the “Orgone Acuumulator”. Do we really want the Feds to burn books (ouch!) and imprison people, no matter how misguided we may think them?

    However, it is no crime to ask for evidence. This position was surely underlined by the Simon Singh verdict. No matter how ridiculous we might find the opposition, we give no fair grounds for offence if we stick to the observable facts.

    Did this woman wear an earpiece? Was it visible to all? What evidence does science have regarding psychic powers – hers or anyone else’s? What methods were used to examine such claims? Does the person claiming powers have evidence to support these, and do they pass truly disinterested scrutiny (i.e. not just by our pals)? STOP

    Once you stray into attacking the person, libel lawyers perk up and stretch their limbs. It is an interesting argument as to where a line should be drawn as to what’s fair to say and what isn’t, but asking for evidence is an elusive target for legalised bullying.

    I don’t think rationalists should be smug. It is possible to point back to a time, within the short span of civilisation, before the arrival of formal logical method, yet cultures flourished and these left their marks. It would be arrogant to assume their lives were less full than our own, though all societies tend to to think that way. In the course of evolution, we could reasonably look forward to developments in thought we cannot yet foresee. What we moderns parade as “ supremely logical” (= good) now may seem quaint in the future.

    I always though that one of the strengths of scientific method is that it never accepts a final edition. I vote we flaunt that strength, and steer away from the purely personal.

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