Child asylum-seekers campaign wins Paul Foot Award

Freelance investigative journalist and campaigner Clare Sambrook picked up the Paul Foot Award last night for her work highlighting the plight of child asylum seekers in the UK.

A co-founder with six friends of the group End Child Detention Now, her work has appeared in dozens of publications – but most frequently in The Guardian, Private Eye and on the website Open Democracy.

Presenting her with the award Private Eye editor Ian Hislop said that she had exposed an ‘extraordinary saga’and the ‘cosy relationship between Government, civil servants and private companies running detention centres for profit”.

Accepting the £5,000 prize, Sambrook explained that one of the things which inspired her friends Esme Madill and Simon Parker to start the child detention campaign was their friendship with the late Paul Foot.

Sambrook also praised the ‘fantastic comradeship of other journalists’such as Observer writer Henry Porter and the various publications who have used her material.

She told Press Gazette that the campaign began with the case of a two year-old child who had been separated from his asylum-seeker parents after they were taken into detention.

She said: ‘We thought that you can’t stop something like this on a case by case basis, you have to stop it all by attacking the wider principle.”

The campaign secured a promise from the Liberal Democrats in March to seek the end of child detention, but Sambrook said that the Coalition Government had since reneged on that.

Sambrook began her career on a magazine published by John Lewis before moving on to work for Haymarket and then the Daily Telegraph City desk. As well as being a freelance journalist she he is a novelist and author of the book Hide and Seek.

Northern Irish journalist Eamonn McCann was given a special lifetime achievement award by the Paul Foot judges for his near 40-year campaign to expose the truth about the Bloody Sunday massacre in Londonderry.

Its conclusion came in June this year when the Bloody Sunday Inquiry exposed the full responsibility of the Parachute Regiment for the killing of 13 unarmed civil rights protestors on 30 January, 1972.

Picking up the £2,000 prize he said: ‘I never expected when I first started writing about Bloody Sunday that I would still be at it 38 years later.

“My inspiration had to do with the fact that I was present and witnessed the violence from the vantage point of a gutter and saw neighbours of mine killed.”

He said he had always known the truth of what happened on Bloody Sunday but that his campaign had been about getting the British Government to admit it.

The other shortlisted entries, each receiving £1,000, were:

  • Jonathan Calvert and Clare Newell (Sunday Times) – on MPs and peers seeking cash for influence
  • David Cohen (Evening Standard) – on the plight of the poor in London
  • Nick Davies (Guardian) – on phone-hacking at the News of the World
  • Linda Geddes (New Scientist) – on evidence that DNA tests are not always accurately interpreted

The Paul Foot Awards are run jointly by Private Eye and The Guardian.

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