|THE Paul Foot Award for Investigative and Campaigning Journalism 2012, worth £5,000, has been won by Andrew Norfolk of The Times for his two-year investigation into the targeting, grooming and sexual exploitation of teenage girls by gangs of men.
The runner-up, who receives £2,000, is Rob Waugh of the Yorkshire Post, for his series of investigations into mis-spending by senior officers of Cleveland Police and abuse of power by ACPO and CPOSA.
The judges also decided to appoint a Special Campaign Award of £2,000 to the Daily Mail’s Stephen Wright, who was shortlisted for 15 years of reporting on the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation and for spearheading the Daily Mail’s Justice for Stephen campaign.
The other five shortlisted campaigns were each awarded £1,000 each.
Ian Hislop, editor, Private Eye, said: “The Foot awards this year are a powerful post-Leveson riposte to all those who want to think only the worst of journalists. The shortlist celebrates those whose great skill is to make the public really interested in what is really in the public interest.”
Child sexual exploitation
Andrew Norfolk’s two-year investigation into the targeting, grooming and sexual exploitation of teenage girls by organised groups of men has prompted two government-ordered inquiries, a parliamentary inquiry and a new national action plan on child sexual exploitation.
The investigation revealed a crime model that police and care agencies refused to recognise – that most of the victims were white and a majority of those in identified abuse networks were men of Pakistani origin.
Andrew Norfolk’s powerful articles revealed how the reluctance of agencies to acknowledge and confront a widespread form of abuse in deprived northern communities had broken families and shattered the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable children.
Andrew Norfolk’s reports consistently ran throughout last year, exposing past failures to protect children and prosecute offenders - when detailed intelligence was held about victims and perpetrators. The campaign has been instrumental in forcing all concerned with the protection of children to give a higher priority to cases of sexual exploitation.
Junketing and abuse of power by high-ranking police officers and officials
The Yorkshire Post’s series of investigations looked into high-ranking police officers and officials at both national and local level, revealing a raft of mis-spending, abuses of power and conflicts of interest.
Locally, the newspaper’s exposés focused on Cleveland Police’s chief constable, police authority chairman and police authority chief executive - showing that all three of the most powerful individuals connected to the force were indulging in large-scale junketing, often courtesy of corporate credit cards.
On a national level, the newspaper’s investigation revealed the country’s most senior and influential policing body, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), had indulged in a “jobs for the boys” scandal when bypassing public spending rules to hand lucrative consultancy contracts to senior police officers – often days after they had retired from their day jobs. This was in contrast to the ACPO’s advice to forces across the country on ensuring competition and value for money.
The third part of the investigation focused on the Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA) into the funding behind the unofficial “trade union” for senior police officers that revealed it had received millions of pounds in public funding, despite its members being among the highest paid public officials in the country. Spending on CPOSA included police authorities up and down the country funding a “war chest” for chief officers to defend disciplinary action brought by police authorities and criminal enquiries.
The investigation involved painstaking in-depth research and protracted battles and appeals to get information disclosed. The results of Rob Waugh’s investigations have led to police investigations of senior officials, a House of Commons debate on the ACPO exposé and an ACPO inquiry, and reviews into CPOSA funding.
Stephen Lawrence campaign
Stephen Wright first reported on Stephen Lawrence in February 1997, when he carried extensive research into what was then a relatively low-profile unsolved murder in south-east London. Since then, Stephen Wright has spearheaded the Daily Mail’s Justice for Stephen campaign that has seen him continue to cover the Lawrence story right through to the recent trial of two of the original suspects, Gary Dobson and David Norris, and heading a comprehensive 20-page background on the case when the proceedings ended in January 2012.
Stephen Wright’s initial investigation led to Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre famously branding the suspects “Murderers” in February 1997. Fifteen years’ dogged reporting on the case followed, with Stephen Wright securing a number of scoops, and breaking significant stories to keep the case in the public eye.
This included reporting on the racist and violent pasts of the suspects and on police blunders, which led to the then Home Secretary Jack Straw ordering a public inquiry. Stephen Wright highlighted the need for double jeopardy laws to be reformed to allow three of Stephen Lawrence’s alleged killers (who had been acquitted) to stand trial again if new evidence emerged.
Notable scoops included reporting on a police watchdog report that found conclusive evidence of police errors which allowed Stephen Lawrence’s killers to escape justice; a jury nobbling scandal involving one of the suspects, when he was controversially acquitted of attempting to murder another man; revealing how a draft copy of the judge-led inquiry alleged the Lawrence murder probe was hampered by racism across virtually all the ranks; and naming and shaming the officers who escaped discipline proceedings over the bungled Lawrence murder probe.
Over the following years, Stephen Wright broke several other highly significant stories on the Lawrence case, including the £320,000 compensation pay-out to Stephen Lawrence’s parents and the forensic breakthrough in 2007 which prompted the trial of Dobson and Norris.
In order not to jeopardise the case the Daily Mail did not publish what would have been the biggest story of them all – the decision to charge David Norris and Gary Dobson with murder, in September 2010.
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