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File on 4 - what happened next?


As BBC Radio 4's flagship investigative programme, File On 4, has a proven track record in ground breaking investigative journalism .

Since its first investigation, an examination of governmental wage policy, the programme has won over 40 awards, including three prestigious Sony Golds.

File On 4's hard hitting investigations call those in power to account.

But what has happened to the people featured and the issues highlighted by the programme.


An independent review into a fatal 2006 Nimrod crash, which killed 14 service personnel, has accused the MoD of sacrificing safety to cut costs.

The highly critical report, by Charles Haddon-Cave QC, said the Afghanistan crash occurred because of a "systemic breach" of the military covenant.

A safety review of the Nimrod MR2 carried out by the MoD, BAE Systems and QinetiQ was branded a "lamentable job".

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth apologised to victims' families.

A File on 4 investigation broadcast on 14 July 2009 revealed that safety alerts, including warnings about Nimrod aircraft, were ignored which could have saved the lives of 31 military personnel in three separate fatal air crashes.

The programme, which also had access to restricted documents, heard that before each of the three crashes military chiefs and Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials were made aware of technical problems.


The "extraordinary" £1m-a-year salary for the head of a government-owned company set up to combat developing world poverty has been attacked by MPs.

The salary of CDC Group chief executive Richard Laing rose from £383,000 in 2003 to £970,000 in 2007, the Commons Public Accounts committee found.

But the Department for International Development, its 100% shareholder, was not properly consulted, the MPs said.

Committee chairman Edward Leigh said oversight of CDC was "ineffective".

The committee also expressed concerns about CDC's decision to hold some £1.4bn - over half its £2.7bn capital - within the UK, rather than investing it abroad.

It also questioned why CDC's investments since 2004 had increasingly been made in countries like China and India which were already attracting foreign investors.

Concerns over the lack of oversight of CDC were highlighted by File on 4 on 15 July 2008 and fears that it was pursuing profits before helping the world's poor.

Icelandic banks

Seven English councils have been accused of "negligence" for putting money into Icelandic banks days before they went bust last October.

The authorities paid nearly £33m into the banks just before they collapsed despite warnings about their solvency.

Spending watchdog The Audit Commission, which itself deposited £10m in the banks, said lessons had to be learnt.

Councils have rejected the criticism, one saying that it was a case of "the pot calling the kettle black".

The fate of the £954m deposited by more than 100 councils and other public bodies in Icelandic banks remains uncertain.

On 17 March 2009 File on 4 revealed how Kent County Council, one of the councils mentioned in the Audit Commission report, could have avoided depositing money with an Icelandic bank days before the country's banking system went into meltdown.

An e-mail to one council official warning about the problems in Iceland was left unopened because the official was on holiday.

Child protection

Child protection must be given higher priority to protect vulnerable young people from abuse, a report has warned.

Lord Laming's review told those working in children's services most of the necessary reforms were in place and that they should "now just do it".

The peer also called for a step change in the way services are run following the deaths of Victoria Climbie and Baby P after months of abuse.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls said he accepted all the new recommendations.

On 22 January 2008 File On 4 Lord Laming told File on 4 that children are still paying the price for organisations failing to do their duty.

The peer who headed the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie was commenting after a File On 4 investigation showed him details of three cases - in London, Newcastle and Swansea - where vulnerable children had been killed and in which there has been criticism of the role played by social services and other agencies.

"Of course I despair and I hope that captures what I feel," he said.


The head of a government-owned body which helps to tackle poverty in developing countries earned £970,000 last year, it has emerged.

The CDC Group, a fund management firm which invests in companies in poor countries, said the pay reflected an exceptional 2007 performance.

But Edward Leigh, chairman of the MPs' committee which monitors public spending, described it as an "insult".

The firm is publicly owned but has not received government money since 1995.

CDC boss Richard Laing and other managers had "comfortable" pay deals, said Mr Leigh, the Conservative chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

Established as the Colonial Development Corporation in 1948, CDC is responsible for channelling investment into many of the world's poorest countries by supporting promising and growing businesses there.

In its report on CDC's performance, the National Audit Office concluded that it had "exceeded" financial targets set in 2004, when the body was restructured, and obtained a "good return" on public funds.

But it expressed concerns about the Department of International Development's (DFID) oversight of the company on issues such as executive pay and reporting of performance targets.

It found the firm had awarded its executives pay packets "well above" levels set in 2004, after the organisation exceeded performance targets.

In July File On 4 reported on concerns that the CDC was using public money to chase big profits rather than alleviate poverty in developing nations.

Heathrow Airport

BAA may have to sell three of its seven UK airports because of concerns about its market dominance, the Competition Commission has said.

The watchdog is recommending that the airport operator should have to sell two of its three airports in the South East - Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

It also believes BAA should not be allowed to continue to own airports in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

BAA said it had "no intention" of selling Heathrow, its largest airport.

The commission report published on 20 August said BAA's current ownership structure was having "adverse consequences" for passengers and airlines.

BAA, owned by Spanish company Ferrovial, has been fiercely criticised for poor customer service and delays at its airports, particularly Heathrow.

The commission said many of the problems of recent years were due to the "common ownership" of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, which account for nearly 90% of departures and arrivals into London.

A special File On 4 investigation in April 2008 into the problems that dogged the opening of Heathrow's Terminal Five revealed the commission's concerns about the BAA monopoly in the South East and the strong possibility that a break-up was likely of BAA's portfolio of airports.

Troop compensation

The government has announced that it will double the compensation offered to the UK's most gravely wounded troops.

The maximum payment will increase from £285,000 to £570,000, on top of a guaranteed income payment for life.

There will also be a smaller rise in the awards to service personnel who have sustained less serious injuries.

Campaigners for better compensation have welcomed what they say is a government pledge to treat soldiers and their families more fairly.

The measures, outlined in Parliament, on 17 July 2008, by Defence Secretary Des Browne, are part of a wider package aimed at ensuring personnel and their families are also better looked after in areas such as education and housing.

This issue was highlighted by File On 4 in an investigation broadcast on 11 March 2008 which revealed discrepancies, anomalies and inconsistencies in the compensation system for service personnel injured in conflict.

Barrister Simon Carr, who specialises in personal injury, explained how some of the problems.

"What the government has introduced is that you receive 100% of the damages for the most serious, for the second injury you receive 30% of the full award and for your third injury you only receive 15%.

"The sum is far less than if your injuries were judged as a whole."

Compensation is calculated on a tariff system for scales of injuries

He added: "If this was assessed in a court your injuries would be looked at in their totality and awarded the appropriate amount."

Child protection failures

Health professionals failed to assess the risk a mentally ill mother posed to her two young children, a report into their deaths has found.

Vivian Gamor, who was schizophrenic, killed her son and daughter in Hackney, east London, in January last year.

Months earlier she was detained under the mental health act after threatening her sister with a knife.

The children's father, Jimi Ogunkoya, said the report itself was "scandalous, inaccurate and insensitive".

Gamor, 29, admitted beating Antoine, 10, and suffocating Kenniece, three, when they stayed the night at her flat.

She was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at the Old Bailey in August 2007.

As a result of comments made by the judge at her trial, an internal review was ordered by the City and Hackney Local Safeguarding Children Board.

The report, published on 17 July 2008, said the involvement of and "mismanagement" by the social services led to the children staying with their mother overnight. It also said social services should have taken more notice of Gamor's strange behaviour towards her children, including claims she was not their real mother and that they had been swapped at birth.

On 22 January 2008 File On 4 revealed several concerns by Mr Ogunkoya including his claim that social services had not told him about his ex partners history of violence when he agreed to allow her to have unsupervised overnight access to the children.

Helicopter problems

The Ministry of Defence has been accused of a "gold standard cock-up" over eight helicopters which have cost £422m but have yet to fly for the RAF.

Commons public accounts committee chairman Edward Leigh said on 4 June 2008, the Chinooks had been "languishing" while troops in Afghanistan needed aircraft.

They can only be used in clear conditions at altitudes above 500ft, so are useless for special forces work.

The MoD said it is confident they will be ready from the end of 2009.

Two years ago File On 4 reported these concerns.

Mr Leigh told the programme: "Well I think this is probably the most serious problem they face, because everybody knows, everybody's known since the Vietnam War that helicopters are absolutely vital in the modern battlefield environment.

"The only way you defeat the Taleban is to get very fast support in terms of men and supplies between areas that are threatened.

"So how anybody in the MOD can think to themselves they can commit to a war in Afghanistan, when they've got a 40% shortfall in helicopter lift I think is staggering admission of failure, and people no doubt are dying as a result."

While Robert Key MP also said: "There's something like a £6 bn a year military procurement budget in the United Kingdom and yet we can't find the money either to get the eight Chinook helicopters flying or the very modest sums of money in terms of that budget to buy, even off the shelf, the sort of vehicles that are so desperately needed out there in the front line.

"And that is, that is cock-up territory."

Hospital superbugs

The deaths of 90 hospital patients from clostridium difficile are "scandalous", Health Secretary Alan Johnson said on 11 October 2007.

Kent police have launched an investigation into whether the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust should be prosecuted for the deaths.

The Healthcare Commission said a "litany" of errors in infection control had caused the "avoidable tragedy".

The trust also froze the severance pay of chief executive Rose Gibb, who resigned on 5 October 2007.

Chair of the trust James Lee resigned his post 10 days later.

A File On 4 investigation in November 2006 found under reporting of the bug Clostridium difficile by some hospitals.

The programme highlighted concerns and criticisms about the way hospitals run by the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust had dealt with the bug and their standards of hygiene.


British oil giant BP has been heavily criticised for its lax safety culture following an investigation into an oil refinery disaster which killed in 15 workers in Texas, USA, in 2005.

Carolyn Merritt, chair of the US Chemical Safety Board said on 20 March 2007, the board had been "absolutely terrified" by the poor safety culture at the refinery.

A File On 4 investigation in October 2006 revealed major concerns about BP's safety record in an report on the Texas tragedy and major oil spill early in 2006from a BP pipeline in Alaska.

The programmed heard claims that BP was heading for disaster by cost cutting which affected safety and maintenance.

Ian and Angela Gay

Ian and Angela Gay
Ian and Angela Gay were cleared on 2 March 2007

Ian and Angela Gay, were found not guilty of manslaughter and child cruelty on 2 March 2007, after they were accused of poisoning a three-year-old boy they were planning to adopt in 2002.

The crucial new evidence presented at their appeal and subsequent retrial was first revealed on File on 4 in December 2005.

Christian Blewitt collapsed at the Gay's home in Bromsgrove, and later died. He was found to have an abnormally high level of sodium in his blood.

The couple were cleared of murder in 2005 but convicted of manslaughter and were jailed.

Evidence revealed in the File on 4 programme cast doubt on the view of the prosecution that he had collapsed because the couple had force-fed him salt because of his misbehaviour.

One expert, Professor Pankaj Vadgama, a chemical pathologist at Queen Mary University of London told the programme that natural causes could not be ruled out because there were other explanations for Christian's high level of salt.

The part of the brain that regulates sodium in the blood, may have become naturally "reset".

"It is possible to reset the osmostat for unknown reasons that the body simply decides that it wants to run at a higher surge. The fact that they couldn't recorrect this sudden catastrophic event, by an equally aggressive form of fluid therapy, makes me wonder whether it is a reset osmostat that we're looking at here."

This view, that Christian may have suffered from the rare condition "reset osmostat", that meant his body retained sodium, was presented to the Court of Appeal four months later and their conviction was quashed.

The new medical evidence was presented again at the Gay's retrial and the couple were acquitted.


An investigation by the BBC Radio Current Affairs Unit in Manchester has been praised by a Council of Europe investigator who produced a report saying the CIA ran secret jails in Poland and Romania to interrogate "war on terror" suspects.

Dick Marty, a Swiss senator who has been investigating CIA operations on behalf of the European human rights body, praised several journalists in his report released on 8 June.

He praised "journalistic contributions which depended on original investigative work to bring to light original facts and new dimensions to the global system of secure detentions and detainee transfers."

One of the journalists cited was Nick Hawton on the "cover up regards secret flights into Poland" in the Radio 4 documentary Chasing Shadows which was broadcast on 2 January 2007.

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