The Newcastle Evening Chronicle has published never-before-seen details of huge riots which hit North Shields 15 years ago, after obtaining more than 40 documents from the Home Office using the Freedom of Information Act.
The paper was able to reveal for the first time how the riots – on the Meadow Well estate – left police bosses with a £7.5m bill, nearly crippling the Northumbria force.
Reporter Adam Jupp was given access to letters between senior police officers and the Government, and secret papers which revealed some police were not skilled enough to cope.
He was also given a dossier detailing vandalism of police officers’ homes and vivid accounts of the riots which were sent to the Government for use in speeches in Parliament.
In a three-day series it also told how the then Prime Minister, John Major, ordered a probe after hearing rumours that police had not acted quickly enough.
And following his findings Adam visited the estate to speak to residents and police who remembered the events, and found how the area had changed for the better.
Adam said: “I grew up here and I remember the riots well.
“I felt that although they were covered brilliantly by the press at the time there had to be some untold stories and things that we weren’t privy to at the time.
“Now that we’ve got the FOI act there are ways of accessing documents that have never been seen before.”
He added: “It was a complete fishing exercise. I asked the Home Office for all the documents it had about the riots and hoped that something decent would come out of it.
“It’s great to see how you can use the act to dig out things that you might not have known previously.”