A former MP and investigative reporter has refused to reveal the sources of his information about the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings during a hearing at the Old Bailey.
Chris Mullin, 74, is challenging a request from West Midlands Police to require him to release source material dating back to his investigations in 1985 and 1986.
Mullin has declined to release information that would reveal the identity of the man who confessed to his role in the bombings years ago in an interview, in the action brought under the Terrorism Act of 2000.
He said that if the application were successful, it would “set a precedent that could be used to undermine the freedom of journalists to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice and other matters in terrorism-related cases”.
“This is a unique and deeply concerning matter, especially for anyone concerned with public interest investigative journalism in this country,” Gavin Millar, QC, on behalf of Mullin, told London recorder Mark Lucraft.
“After the Birmingham pub bombings, my client tracked down and interviewed a person who was willing to admit in detail that he had planted the bombs. The person did so reluctantly, not to promote terrorism or advertise their role in the bombings, but so that Chris Mullin could prove that the Birmingham Six – as the whole world later learned – were innocent.
“Now the state – in the form of the West Midlands Police, the police at the time responsible for failing to properly investigate the bombings and instead detaining six innocent men – is asking for a warrant on under the Terrorism Act that forces him to hand over documents in his possession to identify the person he interviewed.”
Earlier, James Lewis QC, for West Midlands Police, told the hearing that one of the men responsible for the bombings, described in court only as AB, in which 21 people died and more than 200 were injured, was a “voluntary , reliable confession” to Mullin.
“The real perpetrators were never brought to justice,” Lewis said. Now the West Midlands Police were re-investigating the case and relatives of the victims of the bombing were campaigning for justice for their loved ones. He argued that there was a “strong and compelling public interest” in issuing a disclosure order because of the gravity of the case.
Mullin has declined to provide any information, including unedited notes and notebooks, because the information was provided on the understanding that he would never reveal his source.
Mullin said in his statement: “I have no message to the terrorists responsible for this atrocity … I have every sympathy for those whose loved ones died and if I were in their place I would also want those responsible to be brought to justice.” are being brought.”
He added that “it must be said that at the time” [when he published his initial findings], the West Midlands Police were not at all interested in such an investigation. This would have required them to admit that they framed six innocent men…I believe my actions were overwhelmingly in the public interest.”
The court heard that Mullin had written an article stating, “I know the names of the bombers…I will never name him.”
Mullin briefly responded to questions in Lewis’s court about the identity of his sources by twice replying, “I’m not willing to say.”
A decision on requesting disclosure was reserved.