Journalist refuses to reveal his source

Maria Breslin
Saturday 20 July 2002 00:00 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


A journalist who named an IRA bomb suspect and then refused to name his source in court will not face prosecution.

Manchester Evening News reporter Steve Panter faced a possible prison sentence after defying a judge's order, made during the trial of a senior police officer earlier this year.

Mr Panter named Declan McCann as the prime suspect in the 1996 IRA Manchester bombing, which devastated the city centre and injured about 200 people. Detective Chief Inspector Gordon Mutch, who led the investigation into the attack, was later charged with leaking information to the newspaper, but was cleared after a trial at Manchester Crown Court.

Mr Panter, 48, now deputy news editor of the Manchester Evening News, gave evidence in court where he refused to reveal the source – but denied it was Mr Mutch. Yesterday it emerged that contempt charges would not be brought after the Attorney General said that "in the special circumstances of the case" it would not be appropriate to proceed.

The decision was welcomed by the newspaper's editor, Paul Horrocks, who said the investigation into the police officer and Mr Panter was "a waste of time and money when violent crime was going through the roof in the area". "This case has placed great stress on Steve Panter and for what? – simply doing his job as a journalist."

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: "Any decision is entirely an issue for the Attorney General and the trial judge. Our role was to investigate the leak of confidential information."

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