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A freelance journalist's marathon legal fight to protect a confidential source has finally ended in victory, reports the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The House of Lords refused to grant Mersey Care National Health Service (NHS) Trust leave to appeal the five-year case it had pursued against freelancer Robin Ackroyd, in its effort to reveal who leaked confidential medical treatment of murderer Ian Brady to the reporter.

According to the U.K.'s "Press Gazette", the case pitted the NHS Trust's interest in maintaining the privacy of patient records with journalists' need to protect confidential sources.

"We all owe (Ackroyd) an immense debt of gratitude," says Jeremy Dear, general secretary of Ackroyd's union, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). "The fundamental point of principle - that there is a vital public interest in upholding journalists' right not to reveal their sources - has been maintained."

The case began after the "Daily Mirror" published a story in 1999 on the medical treatment of the infamous "Moors murderer" Brady. The NHS Trust took the Mirror Group all the way to the House of Lords to find out how the medical records on which the story was based were obtained. In 2002 Ackroyd identified himself as the author of the story and then became the target of court action himself.

In February 2006, a High Court judge ruled in favour of Ackroyd, saying he was "a responsible journalist whose purpose was to act in the public interest."

This year, the Court of Appeal confirmed that Ackroyd did not have to reveal the identity of his source. But the NHS Trust filed for permission to take the case to the House of Lords, who, on 27 July, refused its petition. The House of Lords granted Ackroyd permission to apply for his costs, which have been met by NUJ.

In a statement, the NHS Trust admitted its disappointment with the decision, saying it pursued the action against Ackroyd "to protect one of the key principles of the NHS - the right of every patient to be treated on a confidential basis."

Visit these links:
- IFJ:
- Press Gazette:
- NUJ:
(7 August 2007)

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