A YELLOW Advertiser journalist has picked up a national award for his investigative reporting.
Chief reporter Charles Thomson won the ’Weekly Reporter of the Year (Highly Commended)’ award at the national Society of Editors Regional Press Awards.
He was shortlisted after his investigative reporting prompted Essex Police to reopen a 25-year-old child sex abuse case.
Charles’ investigation began in late 2014 when he discovered Essex Council had authorised 10 compensation payments that year for ’alleged abuse’ linked to its children’s departments in the 1970s and 1990s.
When County Hall refused to answer basic questions about the payments, the YA launched a campaign – backed by the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the National Association for People Abused in Childhood – for transparency.
Instead, Essex Council became even less transparent, reclassifying ’alleged abuse’ payments as ’personal injury’ payments subsequent Freedom of Information publications, making it impossible to discover how many similar payments had authorised in previous years.
But the transparency campaign prompted a whistleblower, who had worked with Essex Council and the NHS in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to come forward with concerns over the way child abuse allegations had been handled at the time.
Further stories based on the whistleblower’s concerns inspired two more people to come forward.
Charles introduced the trio to then Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston, who in turn introduced them to Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh and a senior sex crimes detective.
A decision was taken shortly afterwards to reopen a particular case from the early 1990s, which the whistleblowers all had direct knowledge of and feared had not been properly investigated.
Weeks later, Charles beat the cops to track down a fourth whistleblower, who is now cooperating with the ongoing police investigation.
Charles’ investigation won him the ’Local Hero (Highly Commended)’ award at the national British Journalism Awards last December.
It has since been selected – alongside investigations by national newspapers like the Guardian, the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times – to appear in the News Media Association’s ’Power of News’ exhibition.
Charles won the ’Feature Writer of the Year (Highly Commended)’ award at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2009.
He joined the YA in 2011 and was ’Highly Commended’ in the ’Newcomer of the Year’ category at the 2012 HoldTheFrontPage Regional Media Awards.
Two years later he was declared ’Weekly Print Journalist of the Year’ at the same awards, where he also picked up a ’Highly Commended’ award for ’Campaign of the Year’.
At last year’s Regional Press Awards he was shortlisted in the ’Specialist Writer of the Year’ category, for a collection of campaigning environmental reports.