'In the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln'
Last January Rupert Cornwell, in a special report shortly before Barack Obama's inauguration, captured the feelings of hope and excitement that surged through America – and swept the rest of the world – as it prepared to swear in the country's first black president. Cornwell noted that the President-elect enjoyed an unprecedented approval rating of 75 per cent, which he attributed both to Obama's intelligence and charisma, and to the fact that he represented the end of the Bush era. Almost 12 months on, and his prediction that Obama – saddled with a legacy of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, millions unemployed at home, and the ever-present threats of terrorism and climate change – would fail to live up to these sky-high expectations have proved pertinent, with the President struggling to get his health-care reform passed.
Nina Lakhani's investigation revealed the mysterious circumstances surrounding 92 deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, Hampshire. An inquest into 10 of the deaths later ruled that the powerful drugs given to five of the patients had contributed to their deaths. We revealed how the Government had refused requests from the coroner, Hampshire Police and council to hold a public inquiry into all the deaths and the subsequent investigations; opposition MPs, lawyers and patient safety campaigners have since joined relatives and the IoS in calls for an inquiry. The doctor at the heart of the case – Dr Jane Barton – later faced a disciplinary hearing at the General Medical Council which found against her in the majority of charges relating to the inappropriate and unjustified use of medication. Dr Barton will learn whether she will be struck off in January.
'The Apprentice: Britain's army of young trainees'
In stark contrast to the pantomime indiscretions of TV's cut-throat world of The Apprentice, in March the IoS uncovered the hard graft facing young people trying to get into the workplace. With real-life trainee apprentices more likely to be trying to avoid the dole queue than survive the glitz and glamour of Sir Alan Sugar's "job interview", the Government pledged to spend £140m to open up 35,000 new schemes over the year.
'The Uplifting Truth about Britain's youth'
Feral youth, violent gang members and hoodies are all too commonly used to describe young people in Britain today. In April the IoS investigated the truth behind Britain's youth and found scores of uplifting stories of teenage volunteers, carers, charity workers and campaigners. Among them was Sisco Augusto, who went off the rails after the murder of his friend, Damilola Taylor. This former gang-member has turned his life around, swapping street violence for voluntary work after meeting a youth worker who helped him to change. Sisco is now studying for his A-levels, mentors troubled kids and has ambitions of opening youth centres in the UK and his country of birth – Angola. The story drew attention to the positive work being done at Stewart's Road Adventure Playground in south London, which has since received funding to secure its future.
'Let Children Grow'
Since the IoS began its Let Children Grow Gardening Campaign with the Royal Horticultural Society last April, more than 250,000 pupils around Britain have benefited from the scheme. Our aim was to get children learning about and eating fresh fruit and vegetables – that they had grown themselves. The campaign attracted the support of celebrities including Kim Wilde and Boris Johnson, and exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court. Liam Jackson, headteacher at the IoS's beacon school, Kingsway Primary School at Goole, East Yorkshire, said the children were getting ready to start again next spring. "We know to be more organised in our planting now, and we can start earlier as we have poly tunnels," he said. "It's a credit to the IoS in starting the campaign and getting so many children and schools interested."
'Defence minister glossed over Nimrod safety fears'
Andrew Johnson exposed the safety fears surrounding Britain's Nimrod spy planes following the mid-air explosion that killed 14 crew members in Afghanistan in 2006. He revealed that a mechanical report based on an inspection on one aircraft alone had shown up almost 1,500 problems, 26 of which were defined as having "potential airworthiness implications" despite a previous statement by the Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, that the report had not raised any "significant airworthiness issues". In May we revealed that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would lose a landmark court case into whether the Human Rights Act protected soldiers on duty – with profound implications for the supply of equipment.
In November we revealed how the MoD planned further cost cuts, just days after the devastating report by Charles Haddon Cave QC into the Nimrod crash was published. It condemned the MoD for putting savings ahead of air safety and revealed a 30-year history of safety breaches. This month the MoD has announced a new military aviation authority will be established and that some of those named in the Haddon Cave report could face court martial.
'Terror in Tehran'
Robert Fisk wrote a first-hand account of the suppression of the Iranian protests over the controversial re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Fisk witnessed widespread violence by Iranian police and militias. Despite the attacks, which resulted in scores of deaths, protests continue to be mounted – the most recent last week following the death of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri – and the legitimacy of the elections is still called into question.
'Is Rachel Christie the first black Miss England?'
The day after the IoS tipped her for success, Rachel Christie was crowned Miss England. The aspiring athlete was the first black woman to receive the spangled tiara and her victory dominated news headlines. But before the niece of the Olympic gold medalist Linford Christie had the chance to strut her stuff in the Miss World final, she was in the headlines for rather less savoury reasons. While attending a porn-themed party last month she got into a fight with Sara Jones, the reigning Miss Manchester. The scandal cost Christie her Miss England crown and she is now awaiting a court hearing next month.
'Britain stalls on new deal to rescue Africa'
Jane Merrick revealed divisions between leading governments over the currency transaction tax (CTT) proposal at the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. The IoS reported that the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, would lobby US and British governments on the so-called "Tobin tax", worth some £30bn for developing countries. Although the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was sympathetic, the UK was accused of stalling on the plan. The issue shot up the agenda in November when Gordon Brown signalled Britain's backing at the G20 summit in St Andrews – only for the US Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, to dismiss it. The issue has since featured prominently at international summits, with Mr Brown – and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France – earning praise for promoting a CTT targeted at helping poor countries adapt to the effects of climate change, but the Americans remain fiercely opposed.
Our investigation into the hundreds of thousands of Brits reported missing each year – now at record levels – unlocked the mysteries of why people disappear. It also looked at why, when found, many missing people don't return home or even make contact with those who are searching for them. Martin Houghton-Brown, of the charity Missing People, said: "The impact of the IoS investigation was significant in helping the Government to examine the UK's response to missing people." In December the Prime Minster announced a task force to deal with the issue. The charity reported that there have since been several sightings of missing people mentioned in the piece.