Ackroyd: could face prison or fine
Freelance Robin Ackroyd’s ordeal is being prolonged a few more weeks as he waits to learn whether a judge will demand his source for a Daily Mirror story on Moors murderer Ian Brady.
Mersey Care NHS Trust this week asked for an instant judgment at the High Court to force Ackroyd to reveal – without a fully-fought court battle – his sources for Brady’s medical records at Ashworth Hospital. Mr Justice Gray reserved his ruling.
If Ackroyd loses and still refuses to name sources, he faces a two-year prison sentence or an unlimited fine. The Daily Mirror has already lost a similar fight, which went all the way to the House of Lords.
Ackroyd said he is optimistic about winning the first leg of his challenge. "We’re quite confident we have put a strong case to the judge," he said.
His witness statement claims a long history of secrecy and non-disclosure to the press and the Government by Ashworth Hospital.
"I believe that, unless I am able to continue to expose iniquities at Ashworth, the public and indeed the Government may never know the truth of the hospital’s continuing problems.
"I cannot make that information available unless I can guarantee the protection of my sources," he stated.
He has denied the hospital’s accusation that he had obtained Brady’s confidential medical records.
He said the documents he supplied to the Daily Mirror’s Gary Jones were a month’s computer log of a "day to day record of observations by staff on Ian Brady’s ward of his moods, actions and words" after he went on hunger strike. The documents were accessible to the 200 staff there, he argued.
The sources had been concerned after an alleged violent move of Brady from one ward to another had precipitated the hunger strike.
Ackroyd told the court that the sources, who he has promised not to reveal, were not motivated by monetary gain.
"Neither I, nor anybody else, made any payment whatsoever to them. My sources were acting in the public interest," he stated.
He has been a journalist for 16 years, specialising in crime, policing and punishment, and has worked for the Yorkshire Post and The Daily Express.
He claimed in his statement that his investigations into a paedophile scandal at Ashworth began in 1997 and were instrumental in the Government launching the Fallon inquiry, by Judge Peter Fallon QC, which recommended the hospital should close.
Ackroyd said the report was damning, giving a grim insight into "Ashworth’s serial mendacity in its dealings with ministers, press and public." Ackroyd has already been the subject of two complaints by Ashworth to the Press Complaints Commission. Neither was pursued.
By Jean Morgan