An investigation into modern slavery in the UK by the JPIMedia Investigations Team has been shortlisted for the prestigious Paul Foot Award 2021.
The award, handed out every year by the current affairs magazine Private Eye, recognises the best in investigative and campaigning journalism.
JPIMedia, which has titles including The Scotsman, The News Letter and The Yorkshire Post, was the only regional news organisation shortlisted, with a team made up of reporters from across the network of newspapers.
The investigation used a mix of open data analysis, freedom of information requests and case studies to expose shocking failings by the criminal justice system to hold perpetrators to account more than five years on from the landmark 2015 Modern Slavery Act.
Fewer than one in 20 slavery and trafficking offences have resulted in police action, with more than 19,000 cases closed without charges being brought across Britain.
Meanwhile the Crown Prosecution Service has been accused of failing to use the legislation to secure fitting jail sentences, with four out of five court cases unsuccessful and many of those convicted walking free with nothing more than a fine or suspended sentence.
The JPIMedia team is made up of:
- Conor Matchett – reporter, The Scotsman
- Ethan Shone – reporter, NationalWorld
- Isabella Cipirska – reporter, Worthing Herald and other Sussex titles
- Philip Bradfield – reporter, Belfast Newsletter
- Michael Holmes – reporter, Blackpool Gazette
- Millie Salkeld – reporter, Portsmouth News
- Harriet Clugston – data and investigations editor, NationalWorld
The team is shortlisted alongside reporters and investigative teams from the Guardian, Sunday Times, the Mirror, openDemocracy, Financial Times and Tortoise.
Harriet Clugston, data and investigations editor, said: "We are delighted to be shortlisted for the award and to be able to fly the flag for local news among a pool of such talented reporters and teams.
"The pandemic has been a very difficult year for local news but one which has demonstrated its immeasurable importance to our communities.
"Our project sought to expose the hollowness of politicians' tough rhetoric on modern slavery - strong words with little evidence of follow through.
"Whether it's the poor record of the police and CPS or the seemingly impossible task for survivors to access fair compensation, perpetrators are being let off the hook and victims let down across every community in the UK.
"It took an enormous amount of work over several months, and we're so pleased our efforts have been recognised by the judges."
Nick Mitchell who is editor of JPI’s new national title NationalWorld.com and oversees JPI's data and investigations team, commented: "Harriet and the team put a tremendous amount of work and expertise into this project, which exposed a shocking lack of political will to tackle a truly horrific crime.
"Following the launch of nationalworld.com, we can now bring this investigative approach to a broader range of issues, both on a local and national level."
The winner of the Paul Foot Award will be announced in an online ceremony on Tuesday 15 June at 6pm, broadcast at www.private-eye.co.uk.