Exaro and David Hencke up for top awards over CSA inquiry

Press Gazette’s British Journalism Awards shortlists Exaro for ‘campaign of the year’

By Exaro Team | 1 December 2014

Exaro and David Hencke up for top awards over CSA inquiryExaro and the work of eight of its journalists are shortlisted for this year’s British Journalism Awards. The eight contributed to a series of articles on Exaro that led to the overarching inquiry into child sex abuse.

In addition, David Hencke is nominated for ‘politics journalist of the year’ in the prestigious awards, which are run by Press Gazette, the trade magazine for journalists.

Exaro is up for ‘campaign of the year’ for stories that resulted in the inquiry into child sex abuse (CSA). The campaign started after Exaro had published a series of investigative articles since December 2012 about a paedophile network of politicians and other VIPs that operated in the UK over decades.

Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for the constituency of Richmond where the notorious paedophile brothel, Elm Guest House, used to be based, was so troubled by our disclosures that he approached Exaro’s Whitehall correspondent, David Hencke, asking for our help to put together a cross-party group of MPs to call for an overarching inquiry into the organised sexual abuse of children.

This led to seven MPs to make the joint call in a letter to Theresa May, home secretary, and Exaro broke the story in June. The letter drew heavily on the findings of Exaro’s long-running investigation.

Besides Goldsmith, the group of MPs comprised: Tim Loughton, Conservative and former children’s minister, Tom Watson and Simon Danczuk, from Labour; Tessa Munt and John Hemming, Liberal Democrat, and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

Hencke dubbed them the “magnificent seven”.

The MPs’ letter referred to Elm Guest House, which was frequented by several MPs. It also mentioned a video of child sex abuse on which a former Conservative cabinet minister appeared. Customs officials seized the video in 1982 as it was being brought into the UK, but no action resulted.

In an audio file, the ex-Customs officer who seized the material is recorded as he identifies a former Conservative cabinet minister as being captured on the video.

After news of the inquiry call broke, Exaro’s Twitter followers tweeted at other MPs to ask whether they would back the call. The campaign quickly gathered momentum despite no initial coverage in the mainstream media.

John Leech, Liberal Democrat, challenged David Cameron at prime minister’s questions the following week over whether he would sanction the inquiry.

By that point, the initial group of seven MPs who called for the inquiry had grown to 40.

Exaro maintained a log of who backed the inquiry, and who opposed it, together with their tweeted comments or other responses.

As more than 50 MPs supported the proposed inquiry, Loughton contacted all the other MPs to seek their backing for call.

The personal appeal by Loughton to colleagues helped push the number of MPs to 81.

Cameron did not want to order the inquiry, but the number of MPs who backed the call for it soon passed the 100 mark.

Only at this point was the mainstream media forced to cover the story.

And the campaign continued relentlessly, causing a storm in Parliament as MPs repeatedly raised the issue on the floor of the House of Commons.

Just over a month after the campaign began, May made a statement to Parliament to announce the overarching inquiry.

And Exaro has maintained a close scrutiny of the inquiry, for example breaking the story that led to the departure of its first chairwoman, Baroness Butler-Sloss.

Eight Exaro journalists contributed to the stories on the inquiry: David HenckeTim WoodAlex Varley-WinterFrederika WhiteheadMark ConradFiona O’CleirighDavid Pallister and Mark Watts.

Three specific stories are highlighted in our entry for ‘campaign of the year’, the first report, the article that marked the point when the number of MPs who backed the inquiry call topped 100, and the eventual announcement from May.

Meanwhile, David Hencke has been shortlisted for politics journalist of the year for his work as the lead reporter on the series, including the story that led to Butler-Sloss’s exit.

Hencke won the award just two years ago for his series that exposed how senior civil servants were working “off-payroll”, enabling them to avoid tax.

Dominic Ponsford, editor of Press Gazette, said: “The British Journalism Awards will recognise the best journalists of the year regardless of the medium on which they work – be it print, online or broadcasting.”

The winners of the British Journalism Awards 2014 are due to be announced at a ceremony tomorrow night.

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