WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
February 01 2023
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO

Chris Mullins wins vital fight against West Midlands police to protect sources

Chris Mullins wins vital fight against West Midlands police to protect sources

The CCRC was set up as a result of a royal commission on the day the Birmingham Six walked free

The journalist and former MP who helped overturn the wrongful convictions of the Birmingham Six has won his fight against being compelled to hand over research that would identify sources relating to his investigations into the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings.

An Old Bailey judge ruled yesterday that Chris Mullin would not have to disclose his notes despite a court order from West Midlands Police.  ‘I do not find an overriding public interest to displace the journalistic source protection right. I decline to grant the production order sought,’ the Recorder of London Judge Mark Lucraft said. Judge Lucraft said he was satisfied there were ‘reasonable grounds for believing’ that Mullin’s notes were ‘likely to be of substantial value’ to police however ruled in favour of Mullin’s Article 10 freedom of expression rights’.

As a journalist in the 1980s, Chris Mullin was pivotal in the campaign that resulted in the release of the Birmingham Six through his work on ITV’s flagship investigative programme World in Action highlighting concerns over the men’s convictions. His 1986 book, Error of Judgment: The Truth About the Birmingham Pub Bombings, exposed the scandal and included claims that he had met those responsible for the bombings.

Speaking outside of the Old Bailey, the journalist said: ‘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.’

Mullins continued: ‘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.’

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, paid tribute to Mullin. ‘Few reporters have been more courageous and dogged than Chris Mullin, nor have they been so spectacularly vindicated. This case threatened press freedom and amounted to another attempt to criminalise the legitimate actions of journalists. In refusing this production order, the judge has recognised the principle that the NUJ will always defend – that protecting sources underpins every journalist’s ability to report. I hope that West Midlands Police now chooses to devote its many powers to amassing sufficient credible evidence to secure a conviction for those terrible bombings.’