Sweeney wins 'freelancers' award'

The journalist whose work freed three women wrongfully jailed and accused of shaking their infant children to death has been awarded the first Paul Foot award - in memory of the great reporter who died last year.

John Sweeney, a journalist for the BBC and Daily Mail, picked up the £5,000 prize for his investigate journalism that cleared Angela Cannings, Sally Clark and Donna Anthony of murdering their own children.

His sterling four-year investigation into "shaken baby syndrome" also exposed the chief prosecution in the case, the-then respected paeditrician Sir Roy Meadow, whose evidence was subsequently dismissed as misleading.

According to the Guardian, the panel of judges awarding the Paul Foot prize said their decision was guided by the late reporter's legacy and the values and ethics that his radical journalism represented.

One of the judges, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, said establishing the award was intended not only to echo the journalism synonymous with Foot, but also to appeal to the freelance community.

"We thought this would be the best way of remembering his life and supporting the kind of work that he did," said Mr Rusbridger.

"We thought it would especially appeal to freelancers, because investigative journalism is expensive and time-consuming and it's quite difficult for freelancers to make an economic case for doing it."

The tribute's to Foot and his modern day counterpart Sweeney were further celebrated by Private Eye editor, Ian Hislop.

He said: "Paul believed that journalists could do more than make a living - they could make a difference. The range and standard of entries was very impressive and I think Paul would have been heartened."

Among the runners up was Felicity Lawrence, reporter for the Guardian, whose investigation into the exploitation of migrant workers in the UK exposed their appalling work conditions, compounded by near-slave wages.

Ms Lawrence, alongside the Bristollian newspaper and the author Heather Brooke, left the prestigious ceremony at Simpsons-in-the-Strand £1,000 better off for their investigative efforts.


13th October 2005

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