Attorney-General v Mulholland: CA 1963

The court rejected a claim for protection from disclosure of matters passing between journalists and their sources: ‘it is said that however these questions were and however proper to be answered for the purpose of this inquiry, a journalist has a privilege by law entitling him to refuse to give his sources of information’ and ‘It seems to me that the journalists put the matter much too high. The only profession that I know which is given the privilege from disclosing information to a court of law is the legal profession, and then it is not the privilege of the lawyer but of his client. Take the clergyman, the banker or the medical man. None of these is entitled to refuse to answer when directed by a judge. Let me not be mistaken. The judge will respect the confidences which each member of these honourable professions receives in the course of it, and will not direct him to answer unless not only it is relevant but also it is a proper and, indeed, necessary question in the course of justice to be put and answered. A judge is the person entrusted, on behalf of the community, to weigh these conflicting interests – to weigh on the one hand the respect due to confidence in the profession and on the other hand the ultimate interest of the community in justice being done or, in the case of a tribunal such as this, in a proper investigation being made into these serious allegations. If a judge determines that the journalist must answer, then no privilege will avail him to refuse.’
References: [1963] 1 All ER 767, [1963] 2 QB 477
Judges: Lord Denning MR
This case is cited by:

  • Cited – British Steel Corporation v Granada Television Ltd HL 7-May-1980
    The defendant had broadcast a TV programme using material confidential to the plaintiff, who now sought disclosure of the identity of the presumed thief.
    Held: (Lord Salmon dissenting) The courts have never recognised a public interest right . .
    ([1981] AC 1096, [1981] 1 All ER 452, [1980] 3 WLR 774)
  • Cited – D v National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children HL 2-Feb-1977
    Immunity from disclosure of their identity should be given to those who gave information about neglect or ill treatment of children to a local authority or the NSPCC similar to that which the law allowed to police informers.
    Lord Simon of . .
    ([1978] AC 171, [1977] 2 WLR 201, [1977] 1 All ER 589, , [1977] UKHL 1)
  • Cited – Prudential Plc and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Special Commissioner of Income Tax and Another SC 23-Jan-2013
    The appellants resisted disclosure to the revenue of advice it had received. It claimed legal advice privilege (LAP), though the advice was from its accountants.
    Held: (Lords Sumption and Clarke dissenting) LAP applies to all communications . .
    ([2013] WLR(D) 20, , [2013] UKSC 1, , UKSC 2010/0215, , )

These lists may be incomplete.
Last Update: 27 November 2020; Ref: scu.193357