Client Chris Mullin wins right to protect the name of his source in ‘landmark freedom of expression decision’

22nd March 2022

In a landmark judgement today, investigative journalist and former Labour MP, Chris Mullin, won the right to protect the identity of an alleged plotter in the 1974 bombings of two Birmingham pubs. SMB Partner Louis Charalambous, assisted by Paralegal Hannah Gilliland, acted for Mr Mullin in the legal battle which has caused some controversy.

Chris Mullin, as an investigative journalist in the 1980s, helped to exonerate the Birmingham Six who were wrongfully held for nearly 17 years for the IRA bombings in Birmingham. During his investigations, which resulted in his famous book, Error of Judgement, Mr Mullin interviewed a man who was an alleged plotter in the tragic event that killed 21 people.

This morning, His Honour Judge Mark Lucraft QC, the Recorder of London, said he did not believe there was sufficient public interest to force Mr Mullin to disclose his notebooks from that time, as it did not override the journalist’s right to protect his sources.

Chris Mullin, backed by the National Union of Journalists, has said:

“I am grateful to Judge Lucraft for his decision. 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.

“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.”

SMB Partner and Co-Head of the Media & Communications Disputes team, Louis Charalambous has 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.”

Congratulations to Mr Mullin, the SMB team, Louis Charalambous and Hannah Gilliland, and Chris Mullin’s counsel, Gavin Millar QC.

Further information on this case, and the case of the Birmingham Six:

The Guardian: Birmingham pub bombings: Chris Mullin wins fight to protect source

BBC: Birmingham pub bombings: Chris Mullin allowed to keep source secret

The Telegraph: Birmingham Six: Chris Mullin will not have to reveal identity of IRA bomber, court rules

Law Gazette: Former MP can protect Birmingham bombings source