BBC Radio Oxford bagged the Gillard award for best news story coverage, against stiff competition, for its reporting of the ‘Bullfinch’ child grooming and exploitation story. Paul Jenner, NUJ Father of Chapel at BBC Oxford, was the producer for the story. He writes here about the challenge of reflecting the severity of the story with sensitivity, whilst protecting the anonymity of the victims.
Paul is pictured receiving the award, alongside BBC Chairman Lord Patten, and Radio Oxford News Editor Alison Dawes
The Bullfinch trial, focusing on grooming and child sexual exploitation, is one of the largest cases handled by Thames Valley Police and one of the biggest stories BBC Radio Oxford has ever covered. The trial lasted five months and involved seven defendants facing more than fifty charges. Many of the details were horrific and unbroadcastable.
With the story attracting national interest, we focused on the Oxford community, asking how and why these crimes happened here and what is being done today to ensure our teenage children are safe? We spent months preparing interviews, including an exclusive with one of the victims and her adoptive mother. When the verdicts came through, we broke the story from the Old Bailey with our Home Affairs Correspondent Alex Forsyth.
The following morning we broadcast a special programme from the Cowley Road, gauging reaction from the community and calling those in authority to account. It generated reaction on our Facebook site.
Andrew Trinder: (it) was an extremely good programme – informative without being sensational and seamlessly produced. Congratulations to all involved.
Jules Paxton Carr: The coverage of this was really good! Well done to all involved!
After sentencing, we gained two further exclusives with another mother whose daughter was abused, and a mother whose son attends a school where one of the children of the convicted men is being bullied.
As a result of our output, we won a coveted Frank Gillard Award in the “Coverage of a News Story” category at a ceremony held in Windsor in October. The awards celebrate the best of BBC Local Radio and we were up against stiff competition. Our colleagues at BBC London had entered their coverage of the murder of Lee Rigby in the same category.
The judges commented that the entry “showcased a station which displayed wonderful commitment in covering a sprawling and highly sensitive story of child abuse, institutional failure and crucially demonstrated real enterprise in unearthing new testimony.
They added: “There was breadth and ambition in the coverage the judges heard, and a tremendous sense of team effort from all the reporters, producers and presenters involved. It added up to a very impressive body of work. Any BBC station – local or national – would justifiably be proud of what Radio Oxford achieved.”
The story does not, however, end here. A Serious Case Review is underway, investigating the failures of police and social services. It is due to be published next year. When it does, we will continue to hold those in power to account, and examine how they plan to stop such heinous crimes taking place in our community in future.