Police lose bid for journalist's Birmingham bombing material
A journalist who investigated the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings will not have to hand over his notes to police after they launched a legal bid to force him to reveal his sources.
Chris Mullin, 74, challenged an application by West Midlands Police to require him to disclose source material dating back to his investigation in 1985 and 1986.
Speaking after an Old Bailey judge ruled he would not have to hand over the material, Mr Mullin said he was “grateful” for the judge’s decision, adding that the right of a journalist to protect sources is “fundamental to a free press in a democracy”.
In his book, Error Of Judgement, and a series of documentaries, Mr Mullin helped expose one of the worst miscarriages of justice, leading to the release of the Birmingham Six after their convictions were quashed in 1991.
Twenty-one people were killed in the bomb attack on two pubs in Birmingham on November 21 1974.
West Midlands Police used the Terrorism Act to bring the production order application.
Handing down his ruling on Tuesday morning, the Recorder of London Judge Mark Lucraft said: “I decline to grant the production order sought.”
Mr Mullin said: “I am grateful to Judge Lucraft for his decision.
“The right of a journalist to protect his or her sources is fundamental to a free press in a democracy. My actions in this case were overwhelmingly 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 Crimes Squad and the quashing of a further 30 or so wrongful convictions.
“This case also resulted in the setting up a Royal Commission which, among other reforms, led to the setting up of the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the quashing of another 500 or more wrongful convictions.
“My investigation is also the main reason why the identity of three of the four bombers is known.
“Finally, I am grateful to the National Union of Journalists for their unswerving support and also to my legal representatives, Louis Charalambous and Gavin Millar QC.”
Mr Mullin’s solicitor said the judgment was a “landmark” for freedom of expression.
Louis Charalambous, of Simons Muirhead Burton, said: “This is a landmark freedom of expression decision which properly recognises the public interest in Chris Mullin’s journalism which led to the release of the Birmingham Six.
“If a confidential source cannot rely on a journalist’s promise of lifelong protection then these investigations will never see the light of day.”
Assistant Chief Constable Matt Ward, of West Midlands Police, said: “This was a complex issue balancing the need to pursue all significant lines of inquiry related to the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings against the rights of journalists to keep the sources of their information confidential.
“The court has given its independent judgment which we will now consider carefully.
“West Midlands Police remains committed to bringing to justice those responsible for the murder of 21 innocent victims.”