A journalist who knows the identity of those responsible for the Birmingham pub bombings does not have to disclose his sources, the Recorder of London has ruled.
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The history of the Birmingham pub bombings
In 1974, the IRA claimed responsibility for two pub bombings in Birmingham. Hundreds were injured and 21 people lost their lives. Six Irish men were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The men would become known as ‘the Birmingham Six’.
However, there were concerns that the wrong people had been found guilty – a claim that journalist Chris Mullin was keen to investigate. After years of research, he published a book of his findings, and it firmly pointed towards the Birmingham Six’s innocence.
Chris Mullin admitted that he knew who carried out the attacks. He provided some of his interview notes to the police, but would not reveal the identities of the bombers because assurances had been given. He said his aim was to free the Birmingham Six – not to bring the guilty to justice.
The convictions of the Birmingham Six were eventually overturned in 1991 amidst allegations of police misconduct, perjury and violence. It remains one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history.
Confidential journalistic sources
Chris Mullin has since revealed the identity of two of the men involved, but only because they have died. The man referred to in the book as the “young planter” is still alive, and his identity remains a secret.
The police recently applied for a Production Order under the Terrorism Act 2000, requesting that Chris Mullin disclose his sources. The application was considered by the Recorder of London, who agreed that Chris Mullin had material in his possession that was of substantial value to the police investigation.
However, the Recorder found that the material should not be produced or access given to the police. Judge Mark Lucraft said there was not “an overriding public interest to displace the journalistic source protection right.” Speaking after the ruling, Chris Mullin said the right of a journalist to protect their sources was fundamental to a free press in a democracy. He also said that while he had sympathy for the bereaved families, those who agreed to provide him with information only did so on the express understanding of confidentiality. That information helped to free six innocent men who had been wrongly imprisoned.
Sources Remain Protected
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