A journalist whose investigative work led to the convictions of the ‘Birmingham Six’ being quashed is facing an attempt by police to force him to reveal source materials for his research into the pub bombings in the city in 1974.

Chris Mullin, a former member of parliament, first published Error of Judgment: The Truth About the Birmingham Bombings 12 years after the bombings of two pubs in Birmingham, which killed 21 people and injured 220. His work helped lead to the six Irishmen sentenced to life imprisonment over the atrocity having their convictions declared ‘unsafe and unsatisfactory’ by the Court of Appeal in March 1991.

Now, the West Midlands police force is seeking an order under the Terrorism Act 2000 requiring Mullin, 74, to hand over material concerning his investigations into the bombings in the 1980s. According to reports, police believe Mullin has notes of interviews which might confirm the identity of a surviving member of the IRA gang behind the bombings.

The police, who are currently conducting an inquiry into which individuals were responsible, have confirmed the proceedings. Mullin is contesting the application: a hearing is reportedly scheduled in the Old Bailey in London for 23 and 24 February.

Journalists have a professional obligation to protect confidential sources. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, a court can make an order for a journalist to surrender research material to police. In challenging an application for such an order, journalists can seek to rely on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to receive and impart information and ideas.