AN ORDER that a journalist disclose his source could not be compatible with article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights unless it was justified by an overriding public interest and, although there was a clear public interest in preserving the confidentiality of medical records, that alone could not be automatically regarded as an overriding requirement without examining the facts of a particular case.
The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal of Robin Ackroyd against summary judgment requiring him to disclose his source of information about a patient in the care of Mersey Care NHS Trust.
The defendant was an investigative journalist. Following the decision of the House of Lords in Ashworth Hospital Authority v MGN Ltd  4 All ER 193, the defendant was named as the intermediary who had supplied MGN with information derived from confidential hospital records about Ian Brady, the "Moors Murderer".
The claimant commenced proceedings against the defendant, seeking the identification of any of its employees who had been involved in the acquisition by him of the hospital records. It relied on the jurisdiction of the court to order a person who became mixed up in the wrongdoing of others to facilitate it to help the wronged person, by giving full information and disclosing the identity of the wrongdoers (the Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction).
The judge gave summary judgment for the claimant and ordered the defendant to disclose his source. He found that, following the decision in Ashworth, the defendant had no real prospect of successfully resisting the claim.
The defendant appealed, contending that it was properly arguable that his source would have a public interest to a claim by the hospital for breach of confidence or contract in disclosing the notes; that the judge had been wrong to brush aside the fact that the defendant's source had received no payment; and that the judge had failed properly to carry out the balancing exercise required under section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. …