Charles Thomson


I am Newsquest’s investigations reporter for London and Herts, serving four weekly papers.

1- After winning a three-year legal battle against Essex Police, I took on the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), setting a Freedom of Information (FOI) precedent. Since 2015, I have been investigating the alleged cover-up of a 1980s paedophile ring. In 2016, Essex Police reopened the case in response to my work. In 2018, I requested records from that reinvestigation. The force fought for three years to suppress the files on spurious grounds, including arguing under Section 38 of the FOI Act that disclosure might upset hypothetical loved ones of the abusers. I involved the Information Commissioner’s Office. In summer 2021, I finally won. For years, the NPCC had used S.38 to block all requests for deceased offenders’ files. I used my win against Essex to challenge the NPCC. I won again, becoming the first person ever to win deceased offenders’ criminal records from the NPCC. I covered the files’ shocking contents in the submitted story and embedded podcasts, which became our fastest-downloaded true crime podcasts ever. BBC and Private Eye covered the story. It was taught to investigative journalism students at the University of Sheffield. I was shortlisted for three Media Freedom Awards and won “Local Hero” at the AOP Digital Publishing Awards, for setting an FOI precedent which should improve access for fellow reporters investigating unsolved crimes, police failings and potential miscarriages of justice. 2- Whilst investigating how a Haringey Council-owned yard became a lockdown-flouting drugs den, I discovered the council had handed control of the site to a gangster rapper called Smurfie Syco – a Walter Mitty character who masqueraded online as a Grammy-winner and a member of the royal family, and was running the site under the banner of a non-existent company. Subsequent FOIs revealed no tender scoring process ever occurred and there was no record of who had authorised giving Smurfie the land. This was one of a series of stories I produced throughout 2021/2 about bizarre Haringey Council property deals. One, about Haringey paying £23m for a £10m building, led councillors to report concerns about their own administration to the police. Police later opened a fraud investigation into another deal I’d covered, where Haringey paid £2.15m for an £850,000 house. Haringey was forced to commission an external investigation into all the deals I reported on. 3- Maria Stockdale was distraught after a coroner refused to hold an inquest into her daughter Sophia’s death, but she was struggling to navigate the system with English as a second language and could not afford a lawyer. I spent hours interviewing Maria and reviewing her evidence. A councillor wrote to the coroner, urging her to reverse her decision in light of my reporting. She agreed, ordering an inquest after all. The inquest heard about failings by Sophia’s mental health trust and that she may have starved after her benefits were wrongly stopped – evidence only heard in open court due to the inquest I’d helped to secure.