Ackroyd v Mersey Care NHS Trust: CA 16 May 2003

The journalist was required to provide the source of his material. In an earlier hearing the newspaper had been ordered to disclose the name of its source, the journalist. The claimant obtained summary judgement, which the journalist now appealed.
Held: The issues which might be put up at trial by the appellant could be different from those raised by the newspaper in the first action, and it was wrong to assume he might not have a defence. Although he might face real difficulties in defending, it would be wrong to say he did not have a real prospect of defending. The protection of journalistic sources is a fundamental of a democratic society. Appeal against summary judgment allowed.
‘Protection of journalistic sources is one of the basic conditions for press freedom in a democratic society. An order for source disclosure cannot be compatible with Article 10 of the European Convention unless it is justified by an overriding requirement in the public interest. Although there is a clear public interest in preserving the confidentiality of medical records, that alone cannot, in my view, be automatically regarded as an overriding requirement without examining the facts of a particular case. It would be an exceptional case indeed if a journalist were ordered to disclose the identity of his source without the facts of his case being fully examined. I do not say that literally every journalist against whom an order for source disclosure is sought should be entitled to a trial. But the nature of the subject matter argues in favour of a trial in most cases.’


Ward, May, Carnwath LJJ


[2003] EWCA Civ 663, Times 21-May-2003, Gazette 17-Jul-2003, [2003] EMLR 36




England and Wales


CitedAshworth Security Hospital v MGN Limited HL 27-Jun-2002
Order for Journalist to Disclose Sources
The newspaper published details of the medical records of Ian Brady, a prisoner and patient of the applicant. The applicant sought an order requiring the defendant newspaper to disclose the identity of the source of material which appeared to have . .
Appeal fromAckroyd v Mersey Care NHS Trust 18-Oct-2002
The medical records of a patient at the hospital had been provided by an employee to a journalist who then provided a story to the Mirror. An order had been made for the Mirror to disclose the source. An application was now made against the . .

Cited by:

See AlsoMersey Care NHS Trust v Ackroyd QBD 7-Feb-2006
The trust, operators of Ashworth Secure Hospital sought from the defendant journalist disclosure of the name of their employee who had revealed to the defendant matters about the holding of Ian Brady, the Moors Murderer, and in particular medical . .
CitedMersey Care NHS Trust v Ackroyd CA 21-Feb-2007
The defendant journalist had published confidential material obtained from the claimant’s secure hospital at Ashworth. The hospital now appealed against the refusal of an order for him to to disclose his source.
Held: The appeal failed. Given . .
CitedFinancial Times Ltd and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 15-Dec-2009
The claimants said that an order that they deliver up documents leaked to them regarding a possible takeover violated their right to freedom of expression. They complained that such disclosure might lead to the identification of journalistic . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Media, Human Rights

Updated: 21 July 2022; Ref: scu.182333