Mersey 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 records.
Held: The need for involvement by the third party in the source’s wrongdoing is a threshold requirement in an action for breach of confidence. In this case Mr Brady had withdrawn his objection to the disclosure. The information disclosed related not to medical information, but information about assaults on him by hospital staff. The court considered that there had been wrongdoing by the original discloser. He must be presumed to have known that the records disclosed were confidential, and that he had edited them before releasing them. It was not intimate or highly sensitive information. The source probably was a worker at the hospital, but it was not established that he was an employee, but he would still be under a duty of care to Ian Brady and to the hospital. The material was not disclosed for payment, and was probably welcome to the patient. As against the hospital, was the disclosure in the public interest? That defence was not established. Large numbers of people might have had accessto te information, and th enumber of leaks had diminisshed substantially. It was not established that the disclosure of the source was necessary for staff morale. The motive of the defendant was relevant, and came within fulfilling the roles described in Simms etc.
The court was unable to say that the hospital would have been able to take proceedings against the source, and could show no damage, but had established the threshhold condition that it was a victim. There was no financial motive. The court had to find the balance, and it could no longer be said that it was necessary to disclose the source, and an order for disclosure would not be proportionate.


Tugendhat J


[2006] EWHC 107 (QB), Times 09-Feb-2006




Contempt of Court Act 1981 10, Human Rights Act 1998 2, European Convention on Human Rights 810


England and Wales


See AlsoAckroyd 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. . .
CitedNorwich Pharmacal Co and others v Customs and Excise Commissioners HL 26-Jun-1973
Innocent third Party May still have duty to assist
The plaintiffs sought discovery from the defendants of documents received by them innocently in the exercise of their statutory functions. They sought to identify people who had been importing drugs unlawfully manufactured in breach of their . .
CitedCampbell v Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd (MGN) (No 1) HL 6-May-2004
The claimant appealed against the denial of her claim that the defendant had infringed her right to respect for her private life. She was a model who had proclaimed publicly that she did not take drugs, but the defendant had published a story . .
CitedFinancial Times Ltd and others v Interbrew SA CA 8-Mar-2002
The appellants appealed against orders for delivery up of papers belonging to the claimant. The paper was a market sensitive report which had been stolen and doctored before being handed to the appellant.
Held: The Ashworth Hospital case . .
CitedGaskin v The United Kingdom ECHR 7-Jul-1989
The applicant complained of ill-treatment while he was in the care of a local authority and living with foster parents. He sought access to his case records held by the local authority but his request was denied.
Held: The refusal to allow him . .
CitedX Ltd v Morgan-Grampian (Publishers) Ltd HL 1990
In a case where a contemnor not only fails wilfully and contumaciously to comply with an order of the court but makes it clear that he will continue to defy the court’s authority if the order should be affirmed on appeal, the court must have a . .
CitedRegina v Shayler HL 21-Mar-2002
The defendant had been a member of the security services. On becoming employed, and upon leaving, he had agreed to keep secret those matters disclosed to him. He had broken those agreements and was being prosecuted. He sought a decision that the . .
CitedGunn-Russo v Nugent Care Society and Secretary of State for Health Admn 20-Jul-2001
The applicant had been adopted as a child, and sought disclosure of the adoption records. The 1983 regulations gave a discretion to the Society, which had acted as adoption agency, to disclose information. The internal report to the society failed . .
CitedGoodwin v The United Kingdom ECHR 27-Mar-1996
An order for a journalist to reveal his source was a breach of his right of free expression: ‘The court recalls that freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and that the safeguards to be afforded to . .
CitedRegina v Mid Glamorgan Family Health Services Authority, ex parte Martin CA 7-Sep-1994
A doctor may deny a patient access to his health records if it is in the patient’s best interests to do so. There is no common law right for a patient to see his own medical records, and the Act is not retrospective. . .
CitedThe Sunday Times (No 1) v The United Kingdom ECHR 26-Apr-1979
Offence must be ;in accordance with law’
The court considered the meaning of the need for an offence to be ‘in accordance with law.’ The applicants did not argue that the expression prescribed by law required legislation in every case, but contended that legislation was required only where . .
CitedVon Hannover v Germany ECHR 24-Jun-2004
Princess Caroline of Monaco who had, at some time, received considerable attention in the media throughout Europe, complained at the publication of photographs taken of her withour her permission.
Held: There was no doubt that the publication . .
CitedIn re S (a Child) (Identification: Restrictions on Publication) HL 28-Oct-2004
Inherent High Court power may restrain Publicity
The claimant child’s mother was to be tried for the murder of his brother by poisoning with salt. It was feared that the publicity which would normally attend a trial, would be damaging to S, and an application was made for reporting restrictions to . .
CitedZ v Finland ECHR 25-Feb-1997
A defendant had appealed against his conviction for manslaughter and related offences by deliberately subjecting women to the risk of being infected by him with HIV virus. The applicant, Z, had been married to the defendant, and infected by him with . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for The Home Department Ex Parte Simms HL 8-Jul-1999
Ban on Prisoners talking to Journalists unlawful
The two prisoners, serving life sentences for murder, had had their appeals rejected. They continued to protest innocence, and sought to bring their campaigns to public attention through the press, having oral interviews with journalists without . .
CitedCamelot Group Plc v Centaur Communications Plc QBD 15-Jul-1997
Human rights law is no aid in protecting a journalist against an order requiring the return of confidential documents, even though this might identify the source of leak. . .
CitedAckroyd 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 . .
CitedX v Y 1987
Complaint was made that defendant newspapers were to publish confidential medical records of doctors suffering Aids. An injunction was sought to prevent use of records given to a journalist by a hospital employee. The records related to doctors in . .
CitedW v Egdell CA 1990
The plaintiff was detained in a secure mental hospital, under a hospital order coupled with a restriction order, after pleading guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The defendant, a consultant psychiatrist, was engaged . .
CitedMcCartan Turkington Breen (A Firm) v Times Newspapers Limited HL 2-Nov-2000
(Northern Ireland) The defendant reported a press conference at which the claims denying the criminal responsibility of an army private were made. The report was severely critical of the claimants, who then sued in defamation. The defendants claimed . .
CitedSchering Chemicals Ltd v Falkman Ltd CA 1982
The Defendants’ professional skills were engaged to present the plaintiff company in a good light, and an injunction was granted to restrain them from doing the opposite. Sach LJ said: ‘even in the commercial field, ethics and good faith are not to . .
CitedLion Laboratories Ltd v Evans CA 1985
Lion Laboratories manufactured and marketed the Lion Intoximeter which was used by the police for measuring blood alcohol levels of motorists. Two ex-employees approached the Press with four documents taken from Lion. The documents indicated that . .
CitedLondon Regional Transport, London Underground Limited v Mayor of London Transport for London CA 24-Aug-2001
The claimants sought an interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from publishing a report in breach of a contractual duty of confidence. This was granted but then discharged on the defendant undertaking only to publish a redacted version. . .
CitedLondon Regional Transport, London Underground Limited v Mayor of London Transport for London CA 24-Aug-2001
The claimants sought an interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from publishing a report in breach of a contractual duty of confidence. This was granted but then discharged on the defendant undertaking only to publish a redacted version. . .
CitedSaltman Engineering Co v Campbell Engineering Co Ltd CA 1948
The plaintiffs instructed the defendant to make tools for the manufacture of leather punches in accordance with drawings which the plaintiffs provided to the defendant for this purpose. The defendant used the drawings to make tools, and the tools to . .
CitedFressoz and Roire v France ECHR 21-Jan-1999
Le Canard Enchaine published the salary of M Calvet, the chairman of Peugeot, (which was publicly available information) and also, by way of confirmation, photographs of the relevant part of his tax assessment, which was confidential and could not . .

Cited by:

Appeal fromMersey 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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Media, Human Rights

Updated: 17 May 2022; Ref: scu.238438