Cancer Act

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Cancer Act 1939 In this feature l illegal claims l old laws l successful prosecution The acid test In September, TS Today reported on two rare prosecutions under the Cancer Act 1939. Here, Rob Coston speaks to investigating officer Chris Jolly about how Westminster City Council tackled the Errol Denton case I n June, Westminster City Council received recognition in the House of Commons for its tenacity in successfully prosecuting two men under the Cancer Act 1939 in two separate cases for peddling misleading claims. ErrolDenton and Stephen Ferguson neither of whom are doctors targeted patients suffering from cancer with claims that they could not only treat them, but cure them of their serious illnesses without tried and tested pharmaceutical drugs. Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, a former GP, put on record her congratulations to Westminster Trading Standards, and asked the health secretary to review the fines available in such cases. Denton was fined the maximum 1,000 for each of the nine charges brought against him, while Ferguson was found guilty of sevenbreaches of the Act and fined a total of 1,750. Denton and Ferguson came to the attention of Westminster Trading Standards when concerned members of the public flagged up dubious content they had discovered on the internet. The offenders were attracting people to their clinics on Harley Street, which enjoys a certain cachet as Londons historic district of choice for doctors, and lends respectability to people working there. Investigating officer Chris Jolly warns people to be sceptical about the claims some practitioners make no matter where they are based and advises anyone concerned that they might have an illness to seek advice from their GP. The methods dont matter Denton and Ferguson both practice nutritional microscopy, which involves analysing a patients blood under a high-resolution microscope to discover whether it is clean, healthy blood, or acidic, dirty, unhealthy blood. Believers say lifestyle changes can make the blood healthier and prevent illnesses from developing but some claim all illnesses are caused by lifestyle, and that changes can, therefore, cure any disease. There is no scientific evidence to verify many of the claims made by such practitioners. Jolly stresses that their methods are not the issue: Its not alternative health practices that are on trial. Undoubtedly, a good diet and healthy lifestyle will help anyone. Itsthat these men were stating they could cure or treat cancer, when there is a law specifically prohibiting anyone from advertising such claims to the public. Its not alternative health practices that are on trial. Undoubtedly, a good diet and healthy lifestyle will help anyone. Its that these men were stating they could cure or treat cancer Chris Jolly The denton investigation After trading standards was alerted, Jolly went into action. Using internet searches, heverified that Denton had made the claims on popular social media outlets, and on his personal website. On this site, for example, Denton said: By changing the diet of one of my clients drastically, she was able to overcome breast cancer without surgery and without the removal of her lymph nodes and has been cancer free for the past four years. On Twitter, he posted: Cancer, diabetes, HIV etc etc, all curable without the big pharmaceuticals. Jolly printed off web pages containing material like this, and then passed on the links to IT specialists, who created digital recordings of the sites in case they were taken offline. As it turned out, the hard copies were enough to satisfy the court, but Jolly notes that it was important to have the recordings as backup. The investigation, plus all the extra labour of vetting and collating the report, had to be completed before the six month time limit stipulated in the Cancer Act. After all of that was done, it was up to Westminster Magistrates court to hear the case. In court Denton made two main arguments in his defence. First, he claimed that since the Cancer Act only refers to advertisements it does not apply to internet content. However, the court decided the material constituted adverts for Dentons services. His second defence was that a foreign corporate entity had posted the blogs and tweets, and therefore the UK courts did not have jurisdiction. He argued that [the blogs and tweets] were not his, says Jolly. There was a Dubai-based company that he claimed to be an employee of, and he said it was responsible. Jolly searched through the material to find phrases such as my practice in Harley Street, which clearly associated Dentons UK operation with the adverts. The Act is quite clear you dont have to be the one who put the ads there; you only have to take part in the adverts, he says. Denton was found guilty of nine breaches of the Act. He appealed in Crown Court, but the original decision was upheld except with regard to the sentence, which was slightly reduced. He was told to pay 17,271 including a 4500 fine, Westminsters legal costs and a victim surcharge within three months, or face a possible jail sentence. an archaic law? Is the 1939 Cancer Act out of date? Should it be used for claims made on the internet, a communication medium unknown to the people who framed the law? Its an old set of rules applying to a new set of technologies, says Jolly. In the end, however, its quite simple is there an infringement or not? The law is as relevant today as it was in 1939 perhaps even more so with the internet, when its so much easier for people to advertise theirservices. The Act is rarely used because very few non-physicians ever say they can cure cancer. Hopefully, these prosecutions will make the irresponsible few think twice. Credits Published You might also like Images: RTimages / Shutterstock 25 November, 2014 Parliamentary praise - September 2014 To share this page, click on in the toolbar TS TODAY "