Brady: let me testify

By Ian Reeves

Moors murderer Ian Brady has asked to testify on behalf of freelance
journalist Robin Ackroyd, who has been battling for more than five
years to protect his sources over a story about the killer’s hunger
strike.

But Ackroyd fears the evidence from the man at the centre of the
case may never be heard, after reports of Brady’s failing health.

Ackroyd wrote
the 1999 Daily Mirror story revealing details of Brady’s hunger
strike in protest against his treatment at Ashworth high security
hospital, where he is being held. The Merseyside institution
subsequently embarked on a lengthy legal battle to get first the Daily
Mirror, and then Ackroyd himself, to reveal the source of the story,
which it says was based on documents protected by doctor-patient
confidentiality.

The latest step of that process will be a new trial, likely to begin at the High Court later this year.

But
Press Gazette has learnt that Brady wrote to Ackroyd via his lawyers
more than two years ago offering to give evidence on his behalf. Since
then, Ackroyd’s legal team has made several requests to interview Brady
in preparation for the case. All have been either ignored or refused.

In
the hand-written letter, Brady says he is “willing to give
evidence/testify against Ashworth on behalf of journalist Robin
Ackroyd”.

He writes: “While I agree patients’ confidential
medical records should not be published, Ashworth employs the legal
pretext of ‘patient confidentiality’ to conceal conditions in Ashworth
and suppress all information reflecting the staff-organised fraud,
theft and brutality already exposed by two public inquiries.”

The
letter also claims that Ashworth had banned local journalists from the
Liverpool Daily Post and Liverpool Echo, who have been critical of its
regime, from entering the hospital.

Ackroyd is surprised at
Brady’s offer to testify – he has published many critical pieces about
him, and even revealed details of an escape plan – but believes his
lawyers should be allowed to interview the prisoner for the case.

“This
is the man at the centre of the whole case, the patient whose rights
Ashworth claim to be defending, yet he wants to testify against them,”
said Ackroyd.

“He is no friend of mine, and whether I would
actually want him as a witness is another matter, but you would at
least want to hear what he has to say. It’s surely in the interests of
justice that you find out the whole picture if you can.

“Ian
Brady recognises, as I have all along, that the authorities are using
patient confidentiality as a smokescreen to prevent legitimate
inquiries. It’s a scandalous waste of both my time and of public money.”

Earlier
this month, newspapers including The People ran a story saying that
Brady was seriously ill and may have “only days” to live because his
liver and kidneys were failing.

Brady’s health condition has not changed in several years, the hospital says.

An
Ashworth Hospital spokeswoman pointed out that in the original court
action against Mirror Group, a letter from Brady’s solicitor had been read out in
court saying that Brady was fully in support of the action taken by the
hospital to find the source.

She said the hospital was not aware
of anyone from Ackroyd’s team having been refused a request to see
Brady and that it would not intentionally be its policy to refuse
access if the patient wanted it. No regional journalists had been ‘banned’ either, she said.

The NHS trust responsible for
Ashworth argues it needs to find the source of the story so that other
patients can feel confident such breaches of security will not be
tolerated.

TIMELINE

1999: Mirror publishes story about Brady being on hunger strike

2000: Ashworth Hospital wins ruling that Mirror should reveal its source

2001: Appeal court upholds ruling

2002: Freelance Robin Ackroyd, pictured, comes forward after Lords
demand Mirror reveal its source, but refuses to disclose his own source
at Ashworth after court rules that he must

2003: Court of Appeal rules that there should be a full hearing of the case

2005: Hearing set for some time between November 2005 and January 2006

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