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Journalist’s legal first sparks podcast download record

Charles Thomson 1A journalist who won the right to access a deceased person’s criminal record, in what is believed to be a legal first, has now set a podcast download record too.

HTFP reported in September how Charles Thomson, of Archant’s investigations unit, had forced the disclosure of more than 1,000 pages of police files as part of his investigation into the alleged cover-up of a 1980s paedophile ring in Essex.

Archant has now released two new instalments of award-winning podcast Unfinished, which has previously hit the UK true crime top ten on Apple Podcasts, written and produced by Charles, pictured, and Tom Bristow, the unit’s editor.

Previous episodes have unmasked one of the ring’s leaders Dennis King as a police informant with links to suspected child-killer Lennie Smith.

The released files reveal King and fellow ringleader Brian Tanner were offending together for more than a decade before they were jointly prosecuted.

Charles, who was named Weekly Reporter of the Year at the Regional Press Awards in September for his work on the investigation, said: “These new episodes achieved the highest release day download figures in the series’ history.

“It’s great to know there is such an appetite for our brand of in-depth reporting.

“Hopefully these FoI victories have opened the door for other journalists.”

Tom added: “We thought last year that these would be the last episodes about this extraordinary and tragic story but Charles keeps finding new leads.

“Podcasts are the perfect format for this type of investigative journalism and I’m delighted Archant has continued to support us.”

In May, Charles won a three-year FoI battle with Essex Police, forcing it to release files from repeated investigations into King and Tanner – both now dead.

He used that victory to challenge the National Police Chiefs Council’s policy of refusing to release deceased offenders’ files.

Confronted with Essex Police’s precedent, the NPCC handed over its own records on King and Tanner – which its press office confirmed was believed to be the first time any deceased criminal’s file had ever been released.