Journalist honoured for FOI data probe which revealed ‘justice gap’ for non-white sex crime victims

A regional journalist has been honoured for her work revealing that police were more likely to bring charges for sexual offences when the victim was white.

Harriet Clugston, who works for National World, won the investigative journalism prize at the Royal Statistical Society’s annual journalism awards.

Harriet’s investigation was published on the website, and used around National World when published in November last year.

The statistics revealed for the first time how white rape victims are 1.8 times more likely than Asian victims to see their rapists charged. Domestic abuse cases with white victims are likewise 1.5 times more likely than those with black victims to result in charges.

NationalWorld sent Freedom of Information (FOI) Act requests to police forces across the UK, asking how many charges they had brought for rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse crimes, broken down by ethnicity of the victim.

Judges said: “This project, through the use of FOI requests, exposed a justice gap with the vast majority of UK police forces having lower charge rates when the victim was from an ethnic minority background.

“This investigation, the first time such cases had been analysed by victim ethnicity, shed light on a considerable data gap within the UK justice systems. The panel was impressed with the way in which the data was sourced and used to highlight how such an important issue had been overlooked.”

Highly commended in the category was a global investigation by The Economist into the true death toll of the Covid pandemic, and a probe by the Press Association into the reduction in LGBT hate crimes being recorded by police since lockdown.

The PA investigation was published in local media across the UK and was written by Ian Jones and Gemma Crew.

Judges said: “This investigation used Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to UK police forces to obtain new figures on LGBTQ+ hate crimes, finding a sharp increase following the relaxing of lockdown restrictions. The judges were impressed with the use of FOI requests to gain access to data and the clear explanation of the figures.”

Awards were also presented in the ‘explaining the facts’, ‘data visualisation’ and ‘investigative journalism’ categories.

The awards, now in their sixteenth year, were sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Professor Christl Donnelly, RSS VP for External Affairs and chair of the awards, said: “It’s fantastic to see such variety in this year’s winning entries and the efforts made by all to use data in their reporting in ways which are both engaging and statistically robust. I wish to give my heartfelt congratulations to the winners.”

Dr Catherine Bromley, ESRC deputy director of data strategy and infrastructure, added: “ESRC is delighted to support these awards and I congratulate all the winners. Informing the public and building trust through articles and commentary that expertly use robust evidence and data is vital — especially when society is increasingly faced with having to separate fact from fiction so frequently.”

  • In 2022, Behind Local News aims to celebrate local journalism in all its forms through our 365 Acts of Local Journalism Project. Lets us know what you think should be included. You can email us here or contact us via Twitter on BehindLocalNews or on Facebook here.

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