England: JUSTICE report on erosion of public trust in state response to concerning deaths
A new report seeks to address the erosion of public trust in the justice system’s response to deaths that give rise to public concern.
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. These are major incidents causing multiple fatalities, or arising from a pattern of systemic failure.
The report, published by JUSTICE, records 54 recommendations of the organisation’s working party, directed at remedying shortcomings in the system 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.”