Author wins book order reprieve

Al-Qaeda book production order ruled to have endangered sources' anonymity

The High Court has ruled that an order requiring the co-author of a book on a former Al-Qaeda recruiter and fundraiser to make his research for the book available to police was correct in principle but was too widely drafted and could have risked improperly identifying anonymous sources.

Shiv Malik wrote ‘Leaving Al-Qaeda’ with its subject Hassan Butt, and the book is due for publication by Constable & Robinson next year. Butt is a British citizen who has admitted recruiting fellow Britons for al-Qaeda and raising tens of thousands of pounds for terrorist organisations, but who has since renounced terrorism and engaged on a programme of ‘de-radicalisation’ of Islamic extremists.

Greater Manchester Police investigated Butt for terrorism offences and their Counter Terrorism Unit obtained a production order under Schedule 5 of the Terrorism Act 2000 against Malik from Manchester Crown Court, allowing them access to, inter alia, “all material in his possession concerning the terrorist activities of Hassan Butt” and “the drafts and source material for the book ‘Leaving Al-Qaeda'”.

Malik, supported by the NUJ and Times Newspapers, sought judicial review of that order.

A three judge Administrative Court has today ruled that although the Crown Court judge had been correct in principle to make the order, the order was too wide in its scope and failed to provide sufficient protection to Malik’s anonymous sources.

Dyson LJ, giving the judgment of the court, said “”In view of the importance of the need to protect a journalist’s sources in aid of his or her article 10 rights, the limitations created by article 10(2) must be applied with caution and convincingly established… the terms of the order did not sufficiently reflect the judge’s intention of doing what could reasonably and properly be done without prejudice to the competing rights to preserve the anonymity of the claimant’s contacts (other than Hassan Butt).”

A hearing to determine the proper scope and terms of a substitute order has been listed for Thursday 26 June.

The full case report and a link to the judgment can be found here.