THE Northern Echo has a long and proud history of standing up for its local community, changing laws, improving living conditions and speaking out against injustices.
It all goes back to WT Stead, who edited the newspaper shortly after its founding in 1870. He saw being in the editor’s chair as “a glorious opportunity to attack the devil” – which he wanted say tackle the injustices that surrounded. It was in Darlington that he began his work on the ban on child prostitution which made him famous nationally.
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In the 1960s, under the leadership of legendary editor Sir Harold Evans, the Echo campaigned to clean up the air pollution in Teesside, for the cervical smear to be introduced to the NHS to save lives and illuminate Durham Cathedral. His campaign to obtain a posthumous pardon for Timothy Evans, a hapless man executed for a murder later proven not to have committed, effectively ended the death penalty.
For the past 25 years, the Echo has campaigned to change archaic laws like the year and day rule that prevented someone from being charged with murder if their victim died more than 366 days after their assault. , and the Double Jeopardy Act which, framed 800 years ago, prevented a person from being charged twice for the same offense, even though new evidence had emerged.
He campaigned for NHS cardiac wait times to be reduced in line with those in other European countries, and he was pivotal in raising half a million pounds, following the death of the princess Diana, to open a children’s hospice, the Butterwick, in the Tees Valley.
More recently, he exposed the Church of England’s secret plan to sell Zurbaran’s paintings at Auckland Castle, which led to the city’s extraordinary renaissance as a tourist destination, and he s is fought for the Hitachi train construction plant to be located in Aycliffe.
He campaigned for 300 Department of Education jobs to remain in Darlington, then provided voice support for moves to relocate part of the treasury to the city.
Now, as he forensic examines the government’s upgrade program, he has once again spoken out against a fundamental injustice: People are not getting the service they paid for. Just as he has done for the past 150 years, his voice has been heard and another wrong has been righted.
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