Trust fights on in quest to find source of Brady leak

By Jon Slattery

The Mersey Care NHS Trust has ignored investigative journalist Robin Ackroyd’s plea to end its "vindictive"

six-year campaign to make him name the source of a Daily Mirror story about Moors murderer Ian Brady.

The Trust revealed this week that it is to appeal after Ackroyd’s High Court victory last month when Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that he "was a responsible journalist whose purpose was to act in the public interest".

The Trust has refused to tell Press Gazette how much it has spent in its pursuit of Ackroyd’s sources. This has prompted a Freedom of Information request by Press Gazette to try to establish the sum, believed to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

A Trust spokeswoman said: "The basis for the appeal is given in the documentation presented to the court and we hope to establish the important principle of medical confidentiality."

Ackroyd told Press Gazette: "A further appeal would be profligate, entirely without merit, and in my firm view, tantamount to maladministration. I have repeatedly said I do not reveal confidential sources, but they seem deaf to that."

Mr Justice Tugendhat also said in his ruling that there was "a vital public interest" in the protection of a journalist’s sources.

Ackroyd gave extracts from Brady’s medical records in Ashworth secure hospital to the Daily Mirror, which printed them in an article in December 1999. The story quoted from confidential patient records following the killer’s hunger-strike.

The Trust attempted to force MGN to reveal the source of the leaked medical records. The newspaper fought the case all the way to an unsuccessful appeal to the House of Lords. When the Mirror was defeated, Ackroyd stepped forward to reveal that he had provided the story.

Ashworth Hospital then launched legal proceedings against him to reveal his source.

Mr Justice Tugendhat, who awarded Ackroyd his legal costs, said: "Considering the facts as I now do in January 2006, in my judgment it has not been convincingly established that there is today pressing social need that the sources should be identified."

In his evidence, Ackroyd said Merseyside NHS Trust’s pursuit of him "smacked of vindictiveness".

He claimed: "Ashworth’s statements since the High Court judgment are inconsistent. I wonder if anyone apart from their lawyers has actually read it and understood it and absorbed it. There are no principles to be established."

Following the case the Mersey Care NHS Trust welcomed some of the judge’s ruling. In a statement it said: "The judge stresses medical records are no less private, no less confidential and no less deserving of protection than previously and he warns that nothing in his judgment should be taken as providing encouragement to those who would disclose medical records."

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