Double award for campaigning writer

Novelist and campaigning journalist Clare Sambrook, who lives near Penrith, managed to pick up not one but two major awards last month.

She won this year’s Bevins Prize for outstanding investigative journalism for her stories about children in the asylum system, and she also collected the Paul Foot Award – similarly presented to her for work highlighting the plight of child asylum seekers in the UK who are often separated from their families and held in secure facilities under enormous physical and mental stress.

Judges praised Sambrook, who is the founder of the End Child Detention Now campaign, for exposing an issue that had previously gone largely unreported by filing reports to the website and across various other media outlets.

Presenting her with the Bevins Prize at the ceremony in London, award trustee and judge Andrew Marr praised the “huge amount of reporterly work” conducted through the online, printed and the broadcast worlds to “thrust her campaign as hard as she could up the nether regions of those in power”.

“We chose somebody who has operated through newspapers, online and has turned her journalism into a huge campaign,” he said. “In this country, which is allegedly civilised, at this moment children of people who have come in completely as of right to seek asylum are incarcerated in a way that is utterly against all our best traditions.

“This was a cause that was championed by our winner, which affected the general election campaign… including eminently the Liberal Democrats whose leader denounced the practise and who now as deputy prime minister appears to have done very little about.”

Clare Sambrook said: “Anthony Bevins set a terrific example of journalism keeping a distance from power, finding his own stories with tenacity and a sense of mischief. I am stunned to find my name linked to his.

“This is especially welcome to the campaign at a time when the Government has completely reneged on its commitment to end child detention.”

In its third year, the Bevins award is presented in memory of Tony Bevins, the first political editor of The Independent, who died in 2001 after a short illness. The Prize is a bronze statue of a ‘Rat up a Drainpipe’, Bevins’ favourite phrase, capturing the essence of his approach to journalism which famously caused mischief in both the political and journalism world.

The Paul Foot Award was set up by Private Eye and The Guardian in memory of Paul Foot, the campaigning journalist who died in 2004. Private Eye editor and award judge Ian Hislop said Clare had exposed “the cosy relationship between Government, civil servants and private companies running detention centres for profit.”

For more information about Clare Sambrook and her work, visit her website.

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