Birmingham pub bombings: Judge rules journalist Chris Mullin can protect investigation sources

'My actions in this case were overwhelmingly in the public interest', journalist Chris Mullin says after the judge's ruling

A judge at the Old Bailey has ruled that journalist Chris Mullin will not have to disclose his sources dating back to his investigation in 1985 and 1986, into the Birmingham pub bombings, after a legal bid from West Midlands Police.

Twenty-one people were killed in the bomb attack on two pubs in Birmingham on the 21st November 1974.

In his book "Error Of Judgement", and a series of documentaries, Mr Mullin, a former MP and minister, helped expose one of the worst miscarriages of justice, leading to the release of the Birmingham Six after their convictions were quashed in 1991.

West Midlands Police used the Terrorism Act to bring the production order application. But Mr Mullin, who's 74, challenged that application to disclose source material dating back to his investigations.

Birmingham pub bombings: what has happened since 1974?

The Birmingham pub bombings victims Credit: PA

Mr Mullin 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."

He went on to say "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."

Journalist Chris Mullin speaks after the judge's landmark ruling Credit: PA

Mr Mullins added: "This case also resulted in the setting up a Royal Commission which, among other reforms, led to the setting up of the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the quashing of another 500 or more 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."

'What will bring us peace is justice', Julie Hambleton says

Commenting on the ruling, Julie Hambleton, who leads the Justice 4 the 21 campaign group and whose older sister Maxine was killed in the bombings, said: "What will bring us peace is justice, no more no less."

She adds: "We want the perpetrators who are still fortunate to have breath in them to be investigated, to be prosecuted, before a member of their peers, hopefully convicted and sentenced for the heinous crimes, the cowardly crimes that they committed - no more no less.

"But we also want a public inquiry."

The Birmingham Six Credit: PA

Meanwhile Mr Mullin's solicitor Louis Charalambous, 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."

In a statement, Assistant Chief Constable Matt Ward of the West Midlands Police said: "This was a complex issue balancing the need to pursue all significant lines of enquiry related to the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings against the rights of journalists to keep the sources of their information confidential."

"The court has given its independent judgement which we will now consider carefully".

"West Midlands Police remains committed to bringing to justice those responsible for the murder of 21 innocent victims."

Watch: Birmingham pub bombings inquests: ITV Central special programme