The Society of Editors has welcomed the decision by a court to back journalist Chris Mullin in his fight against a police production order to disclose information that would reveal his sources.
The decision, announced yesterday by Judge Mark Lucraft, concluded that Mullin would not have to disclose his notes relating to his investigations into the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings. The Society of Editors had warned last month that the decision by West Midlands Police (WMP) to use the Terrorism Act against Mullin in an effort to force him to reveal his sources threatened one of the most fundamental principles of journalism. WMP had sought a production order for Mullin’s notes in the belief that it would identify an individual responsible for the bombings.
Responding to yesterday’s ruling, Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said: “The Society of Editors welcomes this landmark decision by the court to back Chris Mullin in his fight against West Midlands Police. The Society also welcomes the judge’s recognition of the fundamental principle at stake and the importance of journalistic source protection.
“Moving forward, if we want important investigations like that conducted by Chris Mullin into the Birmingham Six to continue, sources must remain confident in the ability of journalists to protect their identity. Yesterday’s ruling is a victory for both freedom of expression and the public interest.”
Announcing the decision, Judge Mark Lucraft said that he did not find an “overriding public interest to displace the journalistic source protection right.” On this basis he declined to grant the production order sought by West Midlands Police.
Responding to the ruling, Mullin said: “My actions in this case were primarily in the public interest. They led to the release of six innocent men after 17 years in prison, the winding up of the notorious West Midlands Serious Crime Squad and the quashing of some 30 wrongful convictions. This case also led to the establishment of a Royal Commission which, among other reforms, led to the creation of the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the quashing of another 500 or more wrongful convictions. My research is also the main reason why the identities of three of the four terrorists are known.”