'Fundamental failings' in press trip safety

Downing Street has been accused of putting journalists lives at risk with inadequate safety on official trips.

This is the verdict of Western Morning News writer Kate Ironside, whose husband – Press Association political editor Jon Smith – has been seriously injured while travelling in a Government convoy for the second time in two and a half years.

Smith had been travelling in a press convoy following Prime Minister Gordon Brown to the Nato summit in Bucharest when he broke his arm in five places. According to Ironside, he and other journalists had been ‘bundled into a vehicle with insufficient seats and no seatbelts”.

She said: ‘When the driver was forced to jam on the brakes, those standing were sent flying. Jon was hurled onto a pile of television equipment with Sky’s Adam Boulton, no featherweight, landing on top.”

Two-and-a-half years ago, Smith shattered his left shoulder, broke his ribs and suffered concussion after an accident in a press convoy following Tony Blair in China when, again, there were apparently no accessible seatbelts.

Ironside said: ‘If Downing Street does not raise its game, it will only be a matter of time before a journalist, or for that matter one of its own officials, is killed – not because of a terrorist attack or some terrible, unpreventable accident but because of fundamental failings in basic safety procedures within Number 10 when it comes to arranging Government convoys.”

Sky News political editor Boulton said on his blog shortly after the crash: ‘Downing Street seems incapable of properly looking after the people they take with them.

‘Today we were only transferred on to an overcrowded bus because they had failed to procure a big enough one, even though everyone on the plane had been vetted and re-vetted – they knew the numbers precisely.”

Downing Street was unable to comment before we went to press.

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