Birmingham Six campaigner wins case over sources

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A journalist who led the campaign to expose the Birmingham Six miscarriage of justice will not have to hand over his notes to police in England after they launched a legal bid to require him to reveal his sources.

Chris Mullin, now 74, challenged an application by West Midlands Police to require him to disclose source material dating back to his investigations in 1985 and 1986. The police application used anti-terrorism legislation to try to force Mullin to expose his sources.

Speaking after a judge in London 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 in recent British history, leading to the release of the Birmingham Six after their convictions were quashed in 1991.

Police had sought to frame the men as scapegoats for IRA attacks, using physical and psychological violence to force them into making false confessions and using discredited forensic evidence to secure a series of guilty verdicts. On 15 August 1975, the six men were falsely convicted and each sentenced to 21 life sentences.

Mr Mullin said: “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 lawyer said the judgment was a “landmark” for freedom of expression.

Louis Charalambous 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.”

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