Ackroyd wins right to appeal in Brady case

Ackroyd: fighting to protect source

Freelance Robin Ackroyd, who in October was given two days to reveal the source for his story about Moors murderer Ian Brady’s hunger strike, has won a significant round in his legal battle to resist the order.

Ackroyd, an investigative journalist, has been granted the right to a Court of Appeal hearing to argue the viability of a public interest defence.

Not allowed to give evidence in person or call witnesses at the October hearing, when Mersey Care NHS Trust asked for instant judgment to force him to reveal his confidential source for Brady’s medical records, Ackroyd was also refused leave to appeal.  But his NUJ lawyers, Thompsons, notified the court they would approach the Court of Appeal directly on his behalf and Mr Justice Parry granted a stay on the order he had imposed on Ackroyd.

Last week, Ackroyd heard that Lord Justice Simon Brown had "hesitantly" granted his appeal, specifically to argue the public interest defence in publishing the records (in the Daily Mirror). This was a defence Mirror publisher MGN did not use when it challenged but lost to the NHS Trust last year.

In the two-day hearing granted by the court, Ackroyd’s lawyers will seek to overturn the summary judgment. If he wins, the case will go back to the High Court for a full trial.

Ackroyd, who has accused Ashworth Hospital of conducting a witch-hunt against him,  told Press Gazette: "This is a significant development.  This case is very far from all over. I will go to whatever court I have to, to overturn the order that I disclose a confidential source of information."

The journalist, who has worked for both the Yorkshire Post and the Daily Express, has been instrumental in the past in exposing conditions at Ashworth Hospital which have been the subject of several critical independent inquiries.

He believes these inquiries have more than vindicated his investigations, which also depended on leaks from within the hospital. Ackroyd also believes that if he is forced to name his sources, it will deter potential whistleblowers.

His sources on Brady’s treatment, which provoked his hunger strike and on his subsequent force-feeding, neither asked for, nor received, any payment.

By Jean Morgan

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