03 September 2020
Press release published by JUSTICE on 24 August 2020 for the report 'When Things Go Wrong: the response of the justice system'.
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When a catastrophic event or systemic failure results in death or injury, the justice system must provide a framework to understand what happened and to prevent recurrence.
This Working Party of JUSTICE, which publishes its report When Things Go Wrong: the response of the justice system, on 24th August 2020, seeks to address the erosion of public trust in the response of the justice system to deaths giving rise to public concern. These are major incidents causing multiple fatalities, or arising from a pattern of systemic failure. If it is to enjoy the confidence of the public, the justice system must provide a response that is consistent, open, timely, coherent and readily understandable.
Unfortunately, these systems are too often beset with delay and duplication, with insufficient concern for the needs of those affected by disasters. Instead of finding answers through the legal process, bereaved people and survivors are often left feeling confused, betrayed and re-traumatised. The lack of formal implementation and oversight following the end of an inquest or inquiry makes the likelihood of future prevention limited.
Having sat for a year, the report records 54 recommendations of the Working Party directed at remedying such shortcomings by building on the strengths of the present system of inquests and public inquiries:
Chair of the working party, Sir Robert Owen, said:
A system cannot provide justice if its processes exacerbate the grief and trauma of its participants. Our recommendations seek to ensure that inquests and inquiries are responsive to the needs of bereaved people and survivors, while minimising the delay and duplication that impede effectiveness and erode public confidence. We think that this set of proposals, if implemented, will provide a cohesive and cost-effective system, with the prospect of a reduction in duplication and delay, and which in turn should serve to increase public trust.
JUSTICE’s director, Andrea Coomber said,
Our work began before the onset of the pandemic. But the current coronavirus crisis reinforces the relevance and timeliness of this project. Our recommendations, in particular our proposal for a special procedure inquest, aim to equip the justice system with a means of effective investigation less dependent on the mercy of successive governments. Further, they aim to ensure that the implementation of recommendations is monitored – a crucial objective if we are to understand how the virus has killed so many and how to avoid future recurrence.
Full report: When Things Go Wrong: the response of the justice system (link to pdf)
Press release originally published here.
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