The deputy editor of two local newspapers in Scotland has won a legal battle after he refused to reveal his source for a story about a council employee being sacked.
It followed a claim that a councillor had leaked information from a confidential document about the sacking to the paper.
The commission contacted him a year ago after the story initially appeared and in August this year lawyers for the company attended the hearing with Mike’s notebook sealed in a envelope.
During the hearing Mike refused to name the source who supplied the report even though he had earlier been threatened with jail if he failed to comply with an order to hand over his notebook to investigators.
The chief investigating officer from the commission had written to him last October demanding that he hand over his notebook and said if he would be in contempt of court if he did not comply.
The papers’ lawyers have now successfully contested that move and Mike’s refusal to reveal his source has been reported in the latest editions of the two papers.
Said Mike: “I got a letter asking for the notebook to be handed over within seven days. There was a warning further down the line that non-compliance was a criminal offence.
“I suppose I was quite worried but thought that surely the law is our side and I can’t be forced to hand over the notebook, so I got in touch with the NUJ.”
It was when the commission repeated the demand a few months later that company lawyers got involved. At the hearing they quoted the European Convention of Human Rights and that journalists should not feel compelled to hand over their sources.
Mike told HTFP that others should stand their ground if they find themselves in the same situation: “The law is on our side. They can make all the noises they want but if you get lawyers involved you will hopefully have the same outcome as I have.”
Despite Mike’s refusal to give a name, the commission decided that Councillor Paul Delaney was the source and banned him from Motherwell Civic Centre meetings for three months.
He was found guilty of breaching the councillors’ code of conduct by leaking information to the press and making unjustified criticism of a senior council official in a separate Times story.