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Regional journalist to compete for coveted investigative reporting honour

Charles Thomson 1A regional journalist’s probe into a paedophile police informant will see him compete for a national award honouring campaigning and investigative journalism.

Charles Thomson has been shortlisted for the Private Eye Paul Foot Award for the investigation, which he ran while working for the Basildon-based Yellow Advertiser.

Charles, pictured, left the Tindle-owned Advertiser when it ceased publication last year, but has since returned to the regional press after joining Archant’s investigations unit following a spell freelancing.

The Advertiser has since reopened as an online-only operation after being rescued by editor Mick Ferris.

Charles is joined on the shortlisted by Emma Youle, who herself won the award, named in memory of investigative journalist Paul Foot, in 2017 while working for the same Archant unit.

Emma now works for HuffPost UK, and is shortlisted alongside colleague Nadine White for an investigation into religious movement SPAC Nation.

Charles told HTFP: “Paul Foot is one of my heroes, so to be shortlisted for an award with his name on it is a tremendous honour. I’m also a long-time subscriber to Private Eye, so to be recognised by my favourite magazine is amazing.

“I’m proud to be flying the flag for the regional press, shortlisted alongside outlets like HuffPost, Buzzfeed and the Guardian. It’s an incredible shortlist and to be included on it is very humbling.”

The five-year investigation exposed how Essex Police protected a known predatory paedophile and police informant, and how Essex County Council subsequently tried to stifle the results of an inquiry into the force’s behaviour.

The case is set to be made into a forthcoming podcast documentary series, produced by Archant.

Charles added: “This investigation lasted five years at the YA, despite increasing resource pressures, thanks to the support of my editor Mick Ferris.

“It’s now continuing at Archant Investigations, thanks to the support of my new boss Tom Bristow. I’m very excited about the impending podcast series.”

Charles and Emma are joined on the shortlist journalists from BuzzFeed News, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian.

Chair of judges Padraig Reidy said: “Reading the dozens of entries that came this year was a timely reminder that beyond the psychodramas of Whitehall, reporters across the country are still dedicating themselves to uncovering stories that are unexpected, unusual and vitally important.

“Whittling down to a shortlist of six is always difficult for the judging panel, but this year it was especially hard, given the quality of the many entrants.”

The winning entry for 2020 will be awarded £5,000 at an online awards presentation, which will be held via the Private Eye website and YouTube this coming Tuesday.