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The Recorder of London has given judgment in the case of West Midlands Police v Chris Mullin

Published:

In 1986 Mullin interviewed a confidential source as part of his journalistic investigation into the Birmingham six miscarriage of justice. The six were still serving life sentences for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings.

In his book Error of Judgment Mullin described how the interviewee, anonymised as “The Young Planter”, had admitted to being one of the IRA volunteers who planted pub bombs.

Mullin’s journalistic investigations identified The Young Planter and four other anonymised men as the real bombers. His book was critical in the campaign that led to the overturing of the convictions of the six by the Court of Appeal in 1991.

The police application was for a production order under the Terrorism Act 2000, in their most recent investigation into the bombings (Operation Castor). The force sought unredacted copies of Mullin’s interviews in 1986 which would have identified The Young Planter. Mullin invoked his journalistic source protection right under Article 10 of the ECHR in refusing to disclose the material.

The Recorder dismissed the application. The Court found that the material sought would have been of substantial value to the investigation. Notwithstanding the gravity of the offences being investigated, however, there was no overriding public interest in displacing Mullin’s strong Article 10 right to protect his confidential journalistic sources. It accepted Mullin’s case that the journalism in issue was of the highest public interest value, exposing serious failings on the part of criminal justice system which resulted in the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of six innocent men.

Gavin Millar represented Chris Mullin.

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