Ten things we learned in 2013 thanks to OpenWorld News

1. The youngest person tasered by police was a 12-year-old schoolgirl

The 12-year-old girl, from Merseyside, was shot with a 50,000 volt stun gun after threatening to harm herself. Our revelation kicked off a national debate about the use of Tasers on children. Children’s charities condemned the use of Tasers on youngsters, but ACPO lead on armed policing Simon Chesterman insisted Tasers are safe.

Daily Mail - Police using Tasers on children as young as 12

 

2. Comic Relief invests millions of donated funds in tobacco and arms companies

All credit to BBC’s Panorama for making this one stick, but we first revealed Comic Relief’s decidedly unethical investment strategy back in August in the People newspaper. In fact, we’d spoken to the story’s unstoppable, original source Andrew Goodwill four years earlier and carried out detailed research showing exactly where money donated to the charity goes. It was Chris Atkins’ Panorama show, however, in December, that finally caused the media storm it deserved. The programme was good enough to credit OpenWorld News director Guy Basnett for his earlier research.

The People - Red face day

3. Young girls making false eyelashes in Indonesia for celebrity endorsed products, such as the Katy Perry range, earn just 8p a pair

We heard about the factories operating in Purbalingga, Indonesia, to produce celebrity endorsed false eyelashes, and teamed up with The Sun for a joint investigation. Thanks to some great work by Gethin Chamberlain on the ground, we learned some girls producing false eyelashes for Western companies backed by celebs earn just 8p a pair. Other factories manufacturing eyelashes for different firms pay even less. The story carried a powerful image of a girl born with no arms using her toes to make lashes at a different company, for just 1p a pair.

The Sun - Workers who are making Katy Perry Eyelashes for 8p a pair

 

4. Councils spent £440 million on publicly funded credit cards, for treats including Caribbean trips and pedicures

Our documentary for Channel 4 Dispatches revealed just how councils waste your money – from taxpayer-funded chauffeurs dropping off dry cleaning, to a London councillor still pocketing thousands in payments despite moving 90 miles away to the coast. But it was the sheer scale of the money involved that led to most of the newspaper coverage, with £440 million spent using council credit cards on treats including golf lessons, Michelin starred restaurants, trips to the Caribbean, and pedicures. They spent another £262 million on legal orders gagging former staff.

Sunday Times - 'Pedicures on 440m council credit card bills'

 

5. The boss of British Gas raised your bills by 10%… at the same time he asked for planning permission to build a SECOND pool at his mansion

When energy firms started to increase bills, we decided to take a close look at the bosses running them. Sam Laidlaw, the boss of British Gas, signed off their electricity bill increase of 10.4%, at the same time he submitted planning permission for a second pool at his £5m Cotswolds mansion. It led to him being known as “Sammy 2 Pools”. We also found Lord Smith of Kelvin, the millionaire boss of SSE who signed off an 8.2% increase, had avoided soaring power bills at his mansion – by building his own wind turbine.

The Sun - Sammy 2 Pools

6. The fattest ten-year-old recorded in Britain weighed more than 24 stone

Investigating just how Britain’s obesity crisis is affecting children, we obtained figures from the National Child Measurement Programme, where every school pupil is weighed. The results showed the heaviest child ever recorded was a ten-year-old girl from Hounslow, London. She weighed 24 stone 5lbs, despite being just 4ft 10ins tall. It put her BMI at 71 – compared to the healthy range of between 18.5 and 25.

Sunday Times - 'Obesity alert over 20-stone 10-year-olds'

 

7. The MoD put down 288 military dogs

The revelation that the Ministry of Defence had put down 288 military dogs in the last three years shocked many people. It led the Sun to launch its ‘Yelp for Heroes’ campaign urging the MoD to review its policy towards retired dogs. Thousands signed a petition, and within days the Government department agreed it would hold a review. A great success for a story uncovered by our reporter Rob Weekes.

The Sun - MoD kills 288 dogs in 3 years

 

8. Five killers locked up for life were released on licence and went on to kill again

Another story that became a splash in the Sun, when we revealed five killers sentenced to life in prison had been freed early on licence, only to kill again. The Sun’s own team went on to trace the families of the victims. One said: “The failure by the justice system hasn’t just cost one life – it has taken the lives of all the family and friends who have lost a loved one.” The story, uncovered by our reporter James Drummond, led Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to launch an urgent review into letting out violent criminals early.

The Sun - Lifers freed to kill again

 

9. A ten-month old child was one of thousands admitted to hospital because of obesity

Looking again at obesity in children, we found hundreds of very young children have been admitted to hospital in the past three years with a primary diagnosis of obesity. It included a ten-month-old girl, and more than 100 children aged under five. A solid investigation by our reporter Rob Weekes.

The Sunday Times - Babies caught up in obesity epidemic

 

10. British taxpayers gave £8.3m in aid to a South Pacific island – £172,000 for each and every one of its inhabitants

Despite austerity measures, and cuts to public services, Britain is committed to maintaining its budget for overseas aid. We looked at where it was spent, and found £8.3 million went to Pitcairn. The island is the world’s most remote, situated in the South Pacific around 3,400 miles from New Zealand. And with 48 inhabitants, it works out as £172,000 per person over the last three years. The cash handouts have soared since 2006 partly due to a child sex scandal that engulfed the island. A strong investigation by our reporter James Drummond.

The Sun - £172K Each

 

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About 

Guy Basnett is an investigative journalist and reporter. He has held the posts of Chief Reporter at The Journal, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Features Writer at the News of the World, and Deputy Features Editor at the News of the World. He was awarded Young Reporter of the Year at the Press Gazette Regional Press Awards 2006, shortlisted for Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards 2009, and shortlisted for Young Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards 2010.

Guy Basnett

Guy Basnett is an investigative journalist and reporter. He has held the posts of Chief Reporter at The Journal, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Features Writer at the News of the World, and Deputy Features Editor at the News of the World. He was awarded Young Reporter of the Year at the Press Gazette Regional Press Awards 2006, shortlisted for Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards 2009, and shortlisted for Young Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards 2010.