Belgian authors, Patrick Vermeren (56) and Bart Van de Ven (37) have won an action in the Appeals Court in Belgium. “Business Coach” Carl Van de Velde had previously unsuccessfully sued them for defamation in the Court of First Instance, but chose to appeal. At that stage the two author’s legal costs already stood at about A$85,000.
The Belgium-based Skeptical society SKEPP stepped in to support the authors and to seek international support for their on-going legal battles.
Patrick and Bart had written an article for SKEPP’s magazine about two highly successful companies that used dubious theories such as NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) and characterization of people based on their skull (phrenology) and physiognomy (interpretation of outward appearance, in this case of face and hair). One of the companies was the Carl Van de Velde Training Institute. The authors had criticized the content of its pseudo-scientific master classes as well as the marketing strategies it used to attract participants.
Paul De Belder, President of SKEPP writes: “It has taken quite some time but today the Appeals Court in Belgium judged that free speech and well-founded criticism are more important than the perceived wrongs of the commercial organization being criticized.”
Although additional legal defence costs of over A$100,000 have been generated by the Appeal process, SKEPP considers that its own “war chest” together with awarded costs and international support of over A$70,000 should enable it to cover its costs.
Vic Skeptics is proud to have contributed and to have publicised the issue locally. Apparently much of the money raised internationally by SKEPP’s fundraiser came anonymously via PayPal and bank transfer from small organisations and individuals in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The last word goes to Paul De Belder:
“Thank you so much for your support. If ever one of your organizations gets in trouble, we will stand by you.”