An LBC investigation uncovered a major people-smuggling ring that claims French police are helping them get people to the UK. They infiltrated the criminal gang, based in Dunkirk, London and Birmingham, who claimed that French police assist them getting people across the Channel. Posing as an Indian family wanting to bring a young relative to the UK, the LBC team met Farooq in his camp deep in woodland off the beaten track in Dunkirk. The undercover team were given three UK addresses to pay a deposit to secure the crossing; a restaurant and an off-licence in west London and a newsagent in Birmingham. The Home Office has launched an investigation into the ring, using the information the team supplied them. Several arrests have been made in the UK and extradition proceedings started in France.
As a result of her investigation into the harmful practice of breast ironing, Inna became the first journalist to expose concrete evidence that the African ritualistic ‘tradition’ which involves the physical mutilation of pubescent girls also takes place unhindered on UK soil. Medical experts and victims regard it as a form of child abuse which could lead to physical and psychological scars, infections, inability to breastfeed, deformities and breast cancer. The UN describes it as one of five global underreported crimes relating to gender-based violence. The investigation led to more victims speaking out, triggered debates in parliament, and the Crown Prosecution Service changing its legal guidelines, with perpetrators now facing up to 10 years in prison.
Tortoise published its first article, “Britain’s Everyday Drug Problem,” on 14 January 2019. When the team began looking at opioid prescriptions six months earlier, they wanted to know whether the scandal of opioid addiction in the US had echoes in the UK. After analysing individual opioid prescriptions across 8,000 GP practices, they found that the use of these powerful and addictive painkillers has risen across England – but particularly in one region and for one reason. In the North East, medics, counsellors, patients, and addicts, told us that the region’s opioid problem is more about social trauma than pain. This wasn’t where they started – or expected to end up. Major media outlets followed up their story and Public Health England is running an inquiry into opioid prescription standards.
In the past year, the political focus has shifted dramatically onto northern communities. Jennifer Williams’ entries put people at the heart of political failure here, covering the notion of the so-called ‘left behind town’ and its implications of blame, unpicking the impact of layers of harmful policymaking in Oldham and exploring the reality of an under-reported crisis – council cutbacks -across all Greater Manchester, the impact of which cuts across every area of people’s lives.
Summer on the Farm is the story of a generation of children growing up on notorious housing estate Broadwater Farm without the most basic right to play outside during the holidays. It took readers inside a world of poverty and fear, helping to enhance public understanding of a forgotten sector of society left reeling from austerity and ensuing social problems such as gang violence. Sharon Hendry won the trust of residents who allowed her inside their homes, revealing overcrowding and life-threatening conditions overlooked by indifferent council officials and unscrupulous landlords. The article demonstrated the importance of school provision during holiday periods for children increasingly reliant on teachers for nourishment and nurture and prompted a £350k summer school crowdfund.
Segregated Playgrounds exposed how a London housing development that had built a wall in its communal playground, in order to segregate the children of richer and poorer families, set a series of dominoes falling. Political leaders from across the spectrum joined in expressing their outrage and disgust at this social injustice, forcing the developer, Henley Homes, to back down and remove the wall. The follow-up reporting soon revealed dozens of other segregated playgrounds across the UK, and generated a huge response from readers, who contacted us in the hundreds with tips and firsthand experiences. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, quickly declared a ban on segregated play areas; then the Conservative housing minister, James Brokenshire, vowed to end the practice nationwide.
In a series of articles published over several months in the comment pages of The Times and the Times Magazine, Rachel investigated the link between the rise in school exclusions and knife crime. She joined Ofsted inspectors on an illegal unregistered alternative provision primary school and interviewed those working in pupil referral units to reveal the failings in that sector and how it could be improved. She also spoke to policymakers and politicians about the underlying causes of gang culture. The articles revealed how the education system is abandoning the most vulnerable children with appalling social consequences.
“Rachel Sylvester tackles the intersecting social evils of knife crime and school exclusions in a series of rigorously investigated and beautifully executed articles exposing the impact on the children themselves and society as a whole. Sylvester reveals the impact of inadequate regulation and investment and suggests a way forward by highlighting initiatives that have succeeded to bring about lasting change in the lives of some of our most vulnerable children.” Professor Rosie Campbell, Judge
This entry, informed by Ian’s family situation, exposed barbaric social evils taking place in the heart of our health system. It raises questions over the human rights of people with autism, learning disabilities and mental health problems – and poses questions about power abuses and state failures that lead to their needless, and sometimes fatal, incarceration. His campaign across several outlets has sparked five official inquiries and widespread debate.
Ian Birrell’s work is consistently of a high standard. He is fearless and rigorous, which are two of the qualities needed to win this prize. I have long been in awe of him and I hope this award will help highlight his work and bring it an even wider audience.” Iain Dale, Chair of Judges
Worse than BROADMOOR: Nurse whistleblower claims he has seen psychopathic serial killers cared for better than the autistic children he has witnessed being violently held down and force-fed drugs at health unit funded by the NHS (Daily Mail)
In Darren McGarvey’s Scotland, the activist confronts the rampant rise of poverty and inequality that now affects one in five of us in the UK. Far from ‘poverty porn’, Darren pushes his audience into a far deeper understanding of the true impact of poverty. From drug deaths to domestic abuse, aspiration to crime, poor mental health to life expectancy and far more, this six-part series meets those caught in the grip of poverty and those trying to inspire change. At the same time, Darren explores his own personal struggles, creating an authored series that was well-received by both audiences and critics alike.
“Forget any preconceptions you might have about gritty social documentaries that follow the same lazy (and often voyeuristic) format, Darren McGarvey’s Scotland takes a truly ground-breaking approach. Darren McGarvey’s journalism is brave, often informed by his own experiences, which not only makes for much richer content, but it also puts him on a level playing field with his interviewees. He has their trust, allowing people to be in control of their own storytelling. His poetic, eloquent and reflective broadcasting style arrests and engages the audience with its beauty and candour. Darren doesn’t shy away from the difficult questions, and often uses it as an opportunity to question his own assumptions and prejudices. Life is not black and white, and Darren McGarvey’s Scotland demonstrates the difference original and authentic tv storytelling can make to boosting public understanding of the causes of social harm in our society.” Abigail Scott Paul, Judge
Record numbers of children are living in a twilight world of unregulated care homes, where they are often subject to violence, exploitation and neglect. A Newsnight investigation branded “Britain’s Hidden Children’s Homes” was the first major piece of journalism to expose the growth of this sector and the dangers faced by teenagers placed in it by local authorities. The series was launched in May 2019. A Newsnight team produced seven films plus associated online articles and social media. By the end of the series, the government had promised to ban the use of such homes for under 16s, launched a consultation into the use of the sector generally and promised a review of the entire children’s social care sector.
Britain’s Hidden Children’s homes is a vital and shocking investigation into the sector of unregulated care homes. With unremitting thoroughness and quality, the BBC Newsnight team alerted the public to a system harming some of the most vulnerable in our society. Maximising exposure across film, written journalism and social media, the story has now spurred government action – further testament to the essential nature of this type of reporting.” Iain Dale, Judge
Children In The Dock is an investigation into the youth justice system in England and Wales which involved the Guardian’s Manchester team spending a month monitoring every case at Greater Manchester Youth Court. The series – which began with 18 articles and a podcast – exposed a chaotic, opaque system which fundamentally doesn’t work and fails to help some of society’s most vulnerable children. It revealed that youth cases now take 40% longer than in 2010, when the coalition government began closing half of all magistrates courts; that hundreds of children wait so long for justice that they have their 18th birthdays and end up in adult court; that care homes continue to criminalise children for petty crimes; that the proportion of BAME children in court has doubled in eight years.
“The Guardian’s investigation into youth justice in Britain was a thorough exposé of a creaking system that fails our most vulnerable children. The judges were impressed by how reporters used a variety of methods, including covering every case in one youth court for a month, to detail these failings and spark calls for a systemic review” Max Daly, Judge
It started as a tip-off. It was said over the din of a busy kitchen to a co-founder of the Bristol Cable, working as a kitchen porter as the media co-operative got off the ground. Then, following an investigation spanning 5 years, one of Bristol’s most notorious bosses was facing accountability, and two men had been released from slave-like conditions.
Undercover reporting, a good amount of shoe leather, open-source intelligence, the cultivation of dozens of brave but apprehensive sources helped tell this story of modern Britain, putting a halt to decades of impunity. An engagement-led approach maximised official impact, including community events, a custom microsite and collaboration with the local BBC.
“The Bristol Cable’s brave and relentless investigation into horrific abuse of employees is an exemplar of how investigative journalism might thrive in the digital era. This collaborative crowd funded team have exposed local social evils with national implications. The mixed journalistic form lends itself to the extended investigation, following every twist and turn, learning about the hidden world around us on the way.” Professor Rosie Campbell, Judge
When someone gets drunk, is ejected from a nightclub and then sexually attacked, who’s to blame? This urgent investigation, for the first time, exposed a new type of predator. Survivor case studies, news stories and reader surveys revealed a pattern – but, as well as exposing the problem, Kate Pasola sought the reasons why, and what could be done to stop it. Travelling to Newcastle, she spoke to door staff and clubs with care policies, and spent time with Saint John’s Ambulance rescuing would-be victims. She broke the news of a new police initiative. The piece asked where the real evil lies – with the few who lurk outside clubs or the many that let it happen? It reached 63,000 people online alone, and struck a chord with many readers who wrote, emailed and shared their experiences online.
” ‘I could be taken from my home’: why disabled people once again fear being ‘warehoused'”
“The disability system is blocking people like Jaki from their benefits – literally”
“A year of dispatches from the frayed edges of Britain’s safety net”
Video content: “Blocked from benefits … literally”
“These Glasgow Women Are Fighting Back After Decades Of Discrimination”
“Thousands of low paid women are striking. Where’s the solidarity?”
“Why women in Glasgow are striking over equal pay”
Social media content: “Highlights from Glasgow Women’s Strike days 24th/25th October 2018”
“Exposed: Hundreds Of Homeless Slaves Recruited on British Streets”
“MPs Call For Change After BuzzFeed Reveals Hidden Homeless Slaves”
“Victims Of Trafficking Were Refused Free Legal Advice Because The Government Got The Law Wrong”
Video content: “Secret film reveals how rough sleepers are rounded up for labour exploitation on British streets”