Sacked police officer named after newspaper's High Court challenge

Basingstoke Gazette

I won a High Court legal battle to reveal the identity of disgraced Pc Terry Cooke after his lawyers and Hampshire Constabulary falsely claimed he was protected by an anonymity order after he was sacked at a secret misconduct hearing. With Newsquest's support, we launched judicial review proceedings, challenging why we [the press] were excluded from Cooke's hearing where it emerged he had systematically abused his position to prey on vulnerable women. It soon transpired we had been misled - no such order had been made. After ten months of hard work behind the scenes, we brought a case to the High Court where Cooke was ordered to pay full costs on an indemnity basis while granting us permission to publish Cooke's identity and details of his misconduct for the first time after I successfully argued it was in the public interest.

The articles brought to light Cooke's abuse of power and showed how Cooke had not only targeted vulnerable women within the Hampshire community, but he sought to cover up his behaviour by fighting to keep his identity secret. The articles exposed Hampshire Constabulary's failure - against its own transparency guidelines – to intervene by challenging Cooke's request for anonymity and revealed how the IOPC was wrongly blocked from challenging Cooke's request. The articles attracted a lot of attention both nationally and locally, and prompted police and crime commissioner Donna Jones to launch an inquiry into misconduct hearings. My Twitter thread explaining the story went viral, gaining 2million impressions, 215,000 engagements, 5,000 retweets, and 12,000 likes. I received messages from police officers, members of the public, and journalists from around the country, proving the strength of feeling about these secret hearings which are on the rise. The article was the second most-read story on The Basingstoke Gazette's website in March and was the front page splash that week, resulting in 4,000 newspaper sales. The article was picked up by the nationals and has prompted follow-up investigations by The Daily Echo and Portsmouth News. It required grit and stamina to pursue this story for ten months. I had to develop a thorough understanding of the misconduct process and cultivate contacts to gain useful information. I was able to identify Cooke after earning the trust of one of his alleged victims. Without this information, it would have been much harder to bring this case to court and fight for the officer's identity to be made public. Simon Westrop, head of legal at Newsquest, said: “Both editor and publisher needed grit and determination to see this story through in the face of threats of legal action from solicitors acting for the disgraced police officer. The officer sought to suppress publication on grounds of privacy. [The Gazette] was forced to choose between giving in or finding the courage and funds to apply for judicial review in the High Court. Together, the editor and publisher did the right thing and justice prevailed. It could so easily have gone the other way had they not held their nerve.”