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Prof's Libel Victory Over LSD Claims

Northern Echo, 22 June 1990

PSYCHIATRIST Professor Sir Martin Roth yesterday accepted "very substantial" libel damages over a "highly defamatory" newspaper article.

It had suggested he had been involved in experiments on humans that led to many deaths and injuries. The front page story in the weekly Newcastle Times was headlined "Dozens brain damaged by LSD", Sir Martin's counsel Richard Parkes told Mr Justice Michael Davies at the High Court in London. It claimed to be an account of the findings of a report by a group called The Citizens Commission of Human Rights which is part of the Scientology organisation.

The November 1988 article made three "highly defamatory" and "utterly false" allegations about Sir Martin, who has an international reputation for his clinical and scientific work in relation to depressive and anxiety disorders.

It suggested that in the 1960s, while he was professor at Newcastle University, he used or was responsible for the use of human guinea pigs for experimentation with LSD, with the result that many of the victims suffered harm and dozens were brain-damaged. It linked his name with a catalogue of atrocities on patients at an Australian hospital which resulted in more than 20 deaths. In fact Sir Martin had no connection whatsoever with the hospital, said his counsel.

It also claimed he went to Canada to work on CIA-backed experiments on humans that caused life-long injuries. "Again that claim was utterly false." Solicitor for the defendants the editor, reporter, publisher and printers of the paper at the time said the article was based on claims which they accepted at face value. This was "an error which they now greatly regret".

They accepted without reservation that the allegations against Sir Martin, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Cambridge University, were false and apologised for the distress he and his family had suffered as a result.

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