London: In what my become a landmark judgement about a journo's right to withhold the name of his source, regardless of his alleged complicity in a terrorist act, Chris Mullin, a journalist won a legal battle on Tuesday against a police force trying to force him to disclose the identity of a bomber behind one of the U.K.'s worst terror attacks.
West Midlands Police who had booked the violation, had invoked anti-terror law to force the journalism to reveal the identity of the person who planted the bombs that ripped through two Birmingham pubs in 1974. But after hearing the case, the judge barred the police from forcing him to name the culprit. During the hearing, the journalist pleaded inability to name the accused as he had promised not to reveal the name, as per the AFP report.
The attacks alleged to have been committed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had killed 21 people and injured scores of others.
Mullin, who is also a former Labour MP and Minister in Prime Minister Tony Blair's government, wrote a book that helped secure the release of six men wrongly convicted of the atrocity.
During his research, the real bomber made a "full confession" to him, a court hearing in London was told last month. But the author promised never to reveal his identity.
In his ruling, judge Mark Lucraft upheld the contention of Mullin, who conducted the case with the support of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ); the judge said he did not have to hand over his notes to police.
He said there was no "overriding public interest to displace the journalistic source protection right" under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"I decline to grant the production order sought," he added.
Mullin, 74, said afterwards: "The right of a journalist to protect his or her sources is fundamental to a free press in a democracy."
He has previously accused the police of failing to conduct a proper investigation. If they had done, he argued, "they may have caught the real perpetrators in the first place".
Mullin's lawyer, Louis Charalambous, said the ruling was "a landmark" for freedom of expression, and recognised the public interest of exposing a miscarriage of justice.
"If a confidential source cannot rely on a journalist's promise of lifelong protection, then these investigations will never see the light of day," AFP quoted him as saying.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the ruling vindicated Mullin's "courageous" and "dogged" reporting.
This case threatened press freedom and amounted to another attempt to criminalise the legitimate actions of journalists," she added.
The so-called Birmingham Six spent 17 years in jail and were released in 1991.
West Midlands Police said it would now "consider carefully" the judgment.