Dale Farm, hacking and Fifa bribes in Paul Foot shortlist

The shortlist for this year's Paul Foot award has been unveiled – and it sees journalists from local newspapers, the nationals and the trade press vying for the £5,000 prize.

The eight shortlisted journalists are Jon Austin from the Basildon Echo, Jonathan Calvert and Claire Newell from The Sunday Times, The Guardian's Nick Davies, freelance journalist Katharine Quarmby, David Rose form the Mail on Sunday, Zoe Smeaton from Chemist and Druggist Magazine, The Independent's Jerome Taylor and Mark Townsend from The Observer.

Stories include the Dale Farm evictions, the Fifa World Cup scandal and phone-hacking at the News of the World.

Private Eye magazine and The Guardian set up the award in memory of Paul Foot, the journalist and campaigner who died in 2004.

The £5,000 prize will be presented on Tuesday 28 February at BAFTA, London, with each of the runners up receiving £1,000.

Jon Austin was recognised for a series of articles about Dale Farm and, in particular, a major investigation into the ownership of property in Ireland by travellers based in the UK that were facing eviction.

The Basildon Echo, a regional daily with a circulation of around 32,000, led the coverage of Dale Farm, with Austin revealing the date of the eviction, writing an expose on site leader Richard Sheridan, and revealing the fact that half the occupants the council wanted to evict were being paid by the local authority to live there on housing benefits.

Austin was credited by judges witrh reporting the issue 'in a balanced way, giving equal coverage to the travellers' campaign to stay, including breaking news of claims that the council enforcement notices were not all valid".

Jonathan Calvert and Claire Newell, of The Sunday Times, were recognised for their work exposing corruption in Fifa.

An undercover investigation by The Sunday Times' Insight team penetrated the organisation's 'closed world", exposing a 'culture of vote-buying involving top officials from Fifa's international governing body".

As a result of the investigation Fifa announced that future contests to host the World Cup will be decided by all its 200 members rather than a small executive committee.

Nick Davies has been shortlisted for his 'long-running and painstaking'investigation into phone-hacking at the News of the World.

The revelation by Davies on 5 July 2011 that the NoW had hacked into the voicemail messages of missing teenager Milly Dowler was the 'moment when the rest of the world stood up and took notice of the scandal that struggled to be heard", and quickly led to the closure of the paper.

Davies was credited with prising open the truth "week by week, story by story, doorstep by doorstep", during which time he was 'threatened, lied to and ignored, but he did what good journalists do: he tracked people down; won their confidence; verified what they told him; and over time, painstakingly built up irrefutable evidence of what had gone on inside the News of the World".

Katharine Quarmby was recognised for her work on the Disability Hate Crime Campaign which featured in The Guardian, The Times, Mail on Sunday, Prospect Magazine, Disability Hate Crime Network, Big Issue, Scotsman, Sunday Times, Mencap Viewpoint Magazine, Disabled Go, Huffington Post, and The Telegraph

The four-year investigation into disability hate crime started in the summer of 2007 when Quarmby became news editor of the magazine, Disability Now. Since then she has written more than 40 articles on disability hate crime and was reportedly the first British journalist to investigate it.

She spent more than a year assembling evidence to prove the existence of this 'invisible crime'before writing two reports: Getting Away with Murder and Scapegoat: why are we failing disabled people

She used the publicity around publication to investigate further cases in detail and provided research to the Equality and Human Right's Commission's (EHRC) inquiry into disability targeted harassment, which was launched in September 2011.

Her recommendation that Parliament should iron out the disparity in sentencing between disability related murder and other murders was taken up by MPs who tabled an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

 

The Mail on Sunday's David Rose was recognised for his work questioning why the UK was still sending millions of pounds in aid to India when the country's economy was booming.

He submitted four articles including a April 2011 story in the Mail's Live magazine which investigated how well the £280 million given annually in aid was being spent, followed by an expose on how a £45m UK-sponsored programme was deepening the poverty of the Adivasi tribespeople because it was being used to plant highly toxic jatropha plants.

Rose also revealed that millions spent on "improving" Madhya Pradesh healthcare by privatising it has been siphoned away by corruption, leaving a system in which the poorest are again being made poorer by being forced to pay for the most basic treatments, while enduring a horrific rates of neonatal and maternal death in filthy, disease ridden hospitals.

He later exposed the fact that aid was not spent directly on improving conditions for the poor but was channelled through multinational management consultancy firms such as Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Zoe Smeaton, from Chemist and Druggist magazine, was shortlisted for her work on an investigative campaign that uncovered more than £5m in government payment errors and revealed the lengths being taken by an NHS agency to cover up the mistakes, which resulted in a £20m compensation package for community pharmacy businesses.

Chemist and Druggist's 'finest hour'was its Fight for Fairness Campaign, launched in April 2011 and still 'gathering steam". The six-month investigation uncovered £5 million worth of payment errors to pharmacy businesses and numerous examples of pharmacists suffering hardship as a result.

The campaign really 'struck a chord'with readers and they are still now coming forward with stories of cash flow crises and services and staff cutbacks due to the payment errors.

The investigation also involved poring over FoI responses and crowdsourcing ideas online, which revealed how the government agency had been covering up the extent of its payment errors by fudging its accuracy figures.

The Independent's Jerome Taylor was recognised for the paper's campaign to allow reporters into the court of protection, setting legal precedents and 'shining a much needed spotlight on one of Britain's most closed judicial systems".

In December 2010 The Independent became the first media organisation to be granted sole access to a Court of Protection case, something that involved 'considerable'legal costs and the use of dedicated personnel.

The issues revolved around an ongoing dispute over a local authority's decision to take a young man out of the care of his long term foster mother.

The Independent, after a Court of Appeal challenge, helped set the precedent that the media could access private Court of Protection cases even if they dealt with cases that did not involve public figures.

In March the paper led a legal challenge to get access to a case concerning Steven Neary and his father Mark, when the workings of the Court of Protection were followed up by a number of national newspapers.

Last month another judge allowed The Independent both to attend and report contemporaneously a five-day hearing involving a sister's battle with a local authority for visiting rights to her incapacitated sibling – and unlike all the previous cases, nothing about the case – not even an anonymised judgment – was already in the public domain.

Thanks to The Independent's campaign 'we now know far more about the often controversial and difficult decisions the Court of Protection makes and how they come to be made", said the judges.

Mark Townsend from The Observer was recognised for a series of articles on the exploitation of women and children trafficked into the UK, which were credited with changing policy, rescuing trafficking victims from immediate abuse and saving at least one charity from collapse.

On 29 May 2011, The Observer published a front page article highlighting the scandal of children going missing from state care along with an inside spread investigating the issue, at a time when the Government was preparing to remove specific pledges to help child trafficking victims from its forthcoming anti human-trafficking strategy.

Townsend wrote about another case on 17 April 2011 which highlighting how Government cutbacks meant the support network assembled over the past decade to help trafficking victims was being dismantled.

One charity, the Poppy Project, was told in April that its budget had been axed, but within two weeks of this article appearing readers had donated £500,000 to help preserve the charity.

Abigail Stepnitz, national co-ordinator of the project, said that without the Observer's support the charity would have closed.

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