The Sun’s investigations editor believes there is a “dawning realisation” of the importance of investigative journalism ahead of Lord Justice Leveson’s report.
Brian Flynn, whose investigation into an illegal immigration racket was praised by a crown court judge last week, revealed Sun stories had led to four people being jailed in the last year – and he wants Leveson to take notice.
He told Press Gazette: “I think there’s a dawning realisation that what journalists do can be of real value in uncovering wrong-doing.
“It’s important for me that any changes made as a result of the Leveson Inquiry don’t impede news organisations from conducting this sort of investigation.”
The latest criminal to be sentenced was Bhavin Shah, who ran a “one-stop shop” to smuggle illegal immigrants into the UK.
After The Sun exposed Shah in November 2011, the newspaper handed the evidence over to police.
The 35-year-old was sentenced to five years in prison last week.
Judge Robin Johnson said: “Much has been written about the shortcomings of journalists who pursued stories using questionable methods of investigation.
“This case demonstrates the other side of the coin, where journalists uncover the inscrutable and the criminal.”
Flynn and a colleague both secretly filmed Shah during meetings at his office, where he was running a “sizeable operation”.
Flynn posed as a building contractor wanting illegal immigrants for work.
“Shah was boasting about the number of people he had already got into college that year. We asked how many of those were working, and he said ‘all of them’.
“It was clear it was a well-run operation and that he was making a lot of money from the visa scam.”
After spending several weeks working on the exposé, Flynn was “extremely pleased” the newspaper’s efforts were recognised by the court.
“Obviously it’s a hard time for investigative journalism. The environment we’re operating in is becoming increasingly difficult.
“It’s important that investigative journalism is recognised as valuable to society and this is a classic example of investigative journalism uncovering something genuinely in the public interest.”
He added: “Although this newspaper has a reputation for celebrity news, we actually do a lot of hard investigative journalism and that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.”