Iain Overton

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Iain Overton
Born (1973-08-03) 3 August 1973 (age 45)
Alma materDowning College, Cambridge, Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge
OccupationWriter and Human Rights Activist
Years active1995–present

Iain Overton (born 3 August 1973) is the author of Gun Baby Gun: a bloody journey into the world of the gun.

He also runs the London-based Charity Action on Armed Violence. As well as being a writer, Overton is also an investigative journalist and documentary maker who has won a number of awards, including two Amnesty Media Awards, a Peabody award and a BAFTA Scotland.

His profile on his charity website states that Overton has reported on armed violence in Ukraine, Syria/Jordan, Pakistan, Philippines, Kosovo, Nagorno Karabakh, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Iraq, Solomon Islands, Mexico, the West Bank, Somalia and Liberia.

He was described by Roy Greenslade of the Guardian as 'one of journalism's nice guys'[1]


Educated at Downing College, Cambridge, from 1997-1998 he took an MPhil in International Relations at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge.

The Crucified Soldier[edit]

The Crucified Soldier refers to the widespread story of an Allied soldier serving in the Canadian Corps who may have been crucified with bayonets on a barn door or a tree. During World War II the story was used by the Nazis as an example of British propaganda.

Iain Overton investigated the story of the Crucified Soldier as well as other myths of World War I in his MPhil dissertation and developed them into a television documentary, which was transmitted in 2002 as part of UK Channel 4's Secret History series.[2] Overton uncovered new historical evidence which identified the crucified soldier as Sergeant Harry Band of the Central Ontario Regiment of the Canadian Infantry, who was reported missing in action on 24 April 1915 near Ypres. Other soldiers in his unit wrote to Band's sister Elizabeth Petrie to express their condolences; a year later, one of them finally confirmed in a letter to her that her suspicions her brother had been "the crucified soldier" were true. Band's body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial.[3]

The evidence discovered by Overton included a typewritten note by a British nurse found in the Liddle Collection of war correspondence in Leeds University. The note related comments by a Lance Corporal C.M. Brown to his nurse, Miss Ursula Violet Chaloner, who he told of a Sergeant Harry Band who was "crucified after a battle of Ypres on one of the doors of a barn with five bayonets in him."[4]

Broadcast journalism[edit]

In September 1998 he was appointed a Senior Producer at BBC Current Affairs. In 2004 he won a Scottish BAFTA for the exposé Security Wars,[5] a BBC film highlighting corruption in the security industry in Scotland.[6] In 2005 he won a Peabody Award for a BBC report on counterfeiting in the pharmaceutical industry.[7][8] In that year he was also a producer on the series that won, with reporter Simon Reeve, a One World Award for best popular feature for the series Places That Don't Exist for the BBC.[9] In August 2005 he was appointed an Executive Producer at ITN. In 2006 he was voted best Broadcast Journalist by the UK bar council for a news report on the proposed changes to the coroners' system, which would have made coroners' investigations into deaths abroad discretionary rather than compulsory.[10]

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism[edit]

In September 2009 he was appointed the first managing editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.[11] In this role he oversaw many award winning investigations, including the Wikileaks Iraq War Logs.[12][13] In 2010/2011, under his editorship, the Bureau won an Amnesty Award,[14] a Thomson Reuters Award[15][16] and was shortlisted for an IRE award[17][18] for its reporting. In 2011/2012 the Bureau won a second Amnesty Award [19] and was nominated for four Press Gazette British Journalism Awards.

Overton was not directly involved in the making of the programme which led to the Newsnight/McAlpine affair and the subsequent resignation of BBC Director-General George Entwhistle, but voluntarily resigned from his role at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the wake of the scandal to preserve the integrity of the organisation. Overton had agreed to the secondment of a member of his staff to the BBC to produce a Newsnight report with no editorial control over the story. [20]

On 2 November 2012, Overton tweeted 'If all goes well we've got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile.'[20]

The BBC TV programme Newsnight broadcast, shown on 2 November 2012 and reported by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism's lead journalist Angus Stickler made an allegation against an unnamed politician, who was widely identified on the internet as the former Conservative Party Treasurer Lord McAlpine.[21] Lord McAlpine issued a statement strongly denying the accusations.[22] This allegation was subsequently admitted to be false.[21]

Regarding Overton's role in the story, the Trustees of the BIJ concluded that "The Trustees consider that he (Overton) made a serious error of judgment, and risked the reputation of the Bureau, when he tweeted about the programme on the day of its transmission, both by exaggerating the Bureau's role in the story and by releasing information (that was itself wrong) prematurely."[20]

Writing in the British trade newspaper the Press Gazette, editor Dominic Ponsford, wrote: "Overton has paid a heavy price for sanctioning the Newsnight report carried out by his lead reporter Angus Stickler. He has resigned and it is worth noting that had he not done so the likelihood is he could not have been sacked. Making an honest mistake, even one as bad as this, does not constitute gross misconduct."[23]

Roy Greenslade, writing in the Guardian, said: "Overton’s refusal to blame anyone else, or to betray any sense of bitterness about what happened, is a tribute to him." [1]

In November 2012, eight members of parliament supported an Early day motion, tabled by Paul Flynn MP, praising the stories reported at the Bureau under Iain Overton's editorship.[24]

Action on Armed Violence[edit]

In March 2013 he was appointed Director of Policy and Investigations at the London-based Charity Action On Armed Violence. In this position he has written for the Independent newspaper and for the Huffington Post UK.

In May 2016 he became the Executive Director of AOAV.

He is an expert member on the Forum for the Arms Trade.


Iain Overton has also been listed as a lecturer at Birkbeck University,[25] Edinburgh Napier University[26] and the Frontline Club.[27]

Gun Baby Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of the Gun[edit]

In 2013, it was reported that Canongate, a UK publishing house, had acquired world rights for a book Iain Overton was writing called 'Gun, Baby Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of the Gun'.

The book was published in April 2015 and was very well received.

The Spectator said it was 'relentlessly engrossing'.[28]

The Independent said it was a 'riveting book...enough to make your jaw drop... without judgement, refusing to descend into anti-gun rhetoric, something he might well have done given the shocking revelations throughout... This book is more than just facts, it’s insight and revelation on a very human level.'[29]

The Financial Times described it as 'adventurous, ambitiously tracing the often devastating impact of guns around the world, from the ganglands of Papua New Guinea to the shadowy arms ports of Ukraine The book is punctuated with thoughtful discussions on issues such as the second amendment to the US constitution, and women’s attitudes towards guns, and contains moments of great poignancy.' [30]

Gun Baby Gun was shortlisted for the 2015 Crime Writer's Association Dagger Awards in the non-fiction category. [31]


  1. ^ a b Greenslade, Roy (2015-06-05). "Why Iain Overton, gun culture expert, is one of journalism's nice guys". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  2. ^ Evans, Suzanne (2007). Mothers of Heroes, Mothers of Martyrs: World War I and the Politics of Grief. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-7735-3188-2.
  3. ^ "BAND, HARRY". Casualty Details. Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
  4. ^ Overton, Iain (14 April 2001). "Nurse's Note Lends Credence to Story of Crucified Soldier". National Post. pp. B7.
  5. ^ Cowie, Eleanor (2004-11-15). "Scotland joins the world of screen glamour Wind and rain cannot stop the stars coming out in Glasgow". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  6. ^ "Frontline Scotland". BBC News Online. 2004-05-25. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  7. ^ "Bad Medicine". BBC Two. 2005-07-12. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  8. ^ "This World: Bad Medicine". The Peabody Awards. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
  9. ^ "Awards 2005". One World Media. Archived from the original on 16 September 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Bar Council Launches 2007 Legal Reporting Awards". General Council of the Bar. 6 September 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
  11. ^ Greenslade, Roy (2009-09-21). "ITN's Overton to be investigative bureau's managing editor". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  12. ^ Oliver, Laura (2010-10-28). "The bureau, the whistleblower and the data journalist: how WikiLeaks' Iraq war logs made the news". Journalism.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  14. ^ "Amnesty announces 2011 Media Awards winners". Amnesty International. 2011-05-24. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  15. ^ "Winner Announced". The University Association for Contemporary European Studies. 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  16. ^ "Bureau wins the Thomson Reuters Reporting Europe award". Bureau of Investigative Journalism. 2011-06-01. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  17. ^ "Honoring the best in investigative journalism". Investigative Reporters and Editors. 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  18. ^ "Bureau nominated for IRE award". Bureau of Investigative Journalism. 23 June 2011. Archived from the original on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
  19. ^ "Bureau wins 2012 Amnesty Award". The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. 2012-05-30.
  20. ^ a b c http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/bureau-investigative-journalism-says-it-had-no-responsibility-making-newsnight-child-abuse-report
  21. ^ a b Batty, David; Mitchell, Alexis (2012-11-10). "George Entwistle resigns as director general of the BBC". The Guardian. London.
  22. ^ "Lord McAlpine responds: statement in full". The Daily Telegraph. London. 2012-11-09.
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 November 2012. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  24. ^ http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/727
  25. ^ "Google Investigative Fellowship — School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London". www.bbk.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  26. ^ "Staff Profiles". Edinburgh International Journalism. 2013-05-06. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  27. ^ "Investigative Journalism with Iain Overton | Frontline Club". www.frontlineclub.com. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  28. ^ Moorcock, Michael (2015-04-25). "An inalienable right to bear arms in the States: the enduring mystique of the Second Amendment". The Spectator. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  29. ^ Johnstone, Doug (2015-08-05). "Gun Baby Gun by Iain Overton - book review: Plenty of ammunition". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  30. ^ Jamie, Waters (2015-01-05). "'Gun Baby Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of the Gun', by Iain Overton". The Financial Times. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  31. ^ CWA, The (2015-05-15). "CWA DAGGER AWARDS – SHORTLIST". Crime Writers' Association. Retrieved 2015-06-11.

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