A ‘vital public interest’

FREELANCE Robin Ackroyd won his right to protect his sources in the High Court on 7 February. But Mr Justice Tugendhat granted Merseycare NHS Trust leave to appeal, attempting to find out who gave out details on the treatment of murderer Ian Brady once more - in an effort that has already been to the High Court three times, to the Court of Appeal twice and to the House of Lords.

An order against Robin Ackroyd "would not be proportionate to the pursuit of the hospital's legitimate aim to seek redress against the source, given the vital public interest in the protection of a journalist's source," Mr Justice Tugendhat said. He had made his decision in the light of the passage of time: the information on events leading up to Brady's hunger strike was published in 1999 (see last issue for details). Mr Ackroyd was, he found, "a responsible journalist whose purpose was to act in the public interest".

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear commented: "This is a fantastic result for Robin and for all journalists. The fundamental point of principle - that there is a strong public interest in upholding journalists' right not to reveal their sources - has been maintained.

"Robin has showed huge courage in standing true to this principle during six very difficult years. We all owe him an immense debt of gratitude - all journalists are in a stronger and safer position because of the brave stand he has taken."

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