A regional daily landed an exclusive about a paedophile rock star after one of its journalists was accidentally sent a draft press release by police chiefs.
Yorkshire Post features writer Chris Burn received the release in error after being copied into an email chain conversation involving South Yorkshire Police and the Independents Police Complaints Commission.
The draft showed findings by the IPCC that police officers in Doncaster had failed to take seriously a series of complaints made about former Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins, who is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for sex offences including the attempted rape of a fan’s baby, by his ex-girlfriend Joanne Mjadzelics.
The email chain Chris read, which he received at around 10am on Friday, also showed the IPCC did not intend to publish the report in full.
He told HTFP: “After contacting both the police and the IPCC, both organisations made representations asking for the article not to run.
“But I believed there was a strong public interest in printing the story as soon as possible, especially because of remarks in the emails I was sent that showed the IPCC did not intend to publish in full the report into how the force dealt with complaints against Watkins and was merely planning to publish a summary of the findings contained within the press release, in which no officers were named.
“This was clearly a matter of public concern given three officers accused of gross misconduct in relation to the case have retired and will face no further action and at this stage, appear unlikely to be named by either the force or the IPCC.
“We were informed at around 2.30pm by the IPCC they were bringing forward publication to the next hour instead of being on 25 August as was originally planned. I had a story ready to go online, which we got up immediately.”
Sarah Marshall, Chris’s colleague at the Post’s Johnston Press sister daily The Star, in Sheffield, then managed to track down and interview Ms Mjadzelics in order to get her reaction to the findings.
Chris added: “The story involved a lot of extremely hard work by several people at the Yorkshire Post to make sure we had a legally-safe version of the story turned around within a few hours.
“Most importantly, thanks to great work by my Johnston Press colleague Sarah Marshall at our sister title The Sheffield Star, we managed to get an exclusive interview with Watkins’ ex-partner whose concerns were ignored by the police to substantially move the story on for Saturday’s paper.
“That interview with Joanne Mjadzelics – and her anger at both what the police had put her through and the failure to bring any action against officers accused of gross misconduct – helped form the basis of a page one splash and a full inside page in the Yorkshire Post on Saturday.”