Reporter refuses to reveal source to Gaul inquiry

Smith: was asked to reveal source






Online journalist Graham Smith is refusing to reveal a source despite demands from the solicitor to the inquiry into the mysterious sinking of the Gaul trawler.

It is thought to be the first time in the UK that a journalist has been ordered to reveal the source of a story published on a website.

Leeds-based Smith runs news and PR website and has specialised in covering the story of the Gaul, which was lost with all 36 crew off Norway in 1974 .

On his website, Smith carried a recording of an interview with an unnamed former chief petty officer who told of overhearing a conversation in Portsmouth in the Eighties in which it was said the Gaul was dragged down by a nuclear submarine. There have been claims that the Gaul was acting as a spy ship, carrying surveillance equipment to track the Russian navy in the Arctic seas north of Murmansk.

Laurance O’Dea, the Treasury solicitor acting for the inquiry, asked Smith to visit his offices in London on Monday and identify the petty officer.

He was also sent a summons, under the Merchant Shipping Act and Magistrates’ Court Act, to produce his documents, recordings and notes and could face legal action if he does not comply.

Smith, who is being backed by the NUJ, has taken legal advice and asked for the meeting to be postponed. It is now scheduled for 18 May.

Smith said that when he sent a statement from his source to the inquiry it was dismissed as a publicity stunt. He said: “If asked to name my source, I will say ‘no’. It is disgraceful to be put under this pressure to divulge a source. I have no intention of putting his liberty or integrity in jeopardy. It will be his decision, not mine.” Smith has called the inquiry into the sinking a “whitewash”.

O’Dea declined to comment.

By Jon Slattery

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