Report Demands Reform of Major Public Inquiries

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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 11:28pm in

This is another interesting piece from Tuesday’s issue of the I for 25th August 2020. Written by Jane Clinton, it discusses the publication of a report by the Justice reform group demanding extensive reforms of major public inquiries. The piece, ‘Major public inquiries ‘need radical reform’ runs

The way the justice system responds to incidents ranging from the Manchester Arena bombings to the Grenfell Tower fire needs a major overhaul, according to a report.

Official investigations to discover what happened and how to stop it recurring are too slow, insufficiently concerned about victims and their families and too often limit the likelihood of preventing similar events in the future.

The report, When Things Go Wrong, by the influential Justice reform group warned public trust in how the justice system responds to deaths has been “eroded” and says a “consistent, open, timely, coherent and readily understandable” response is required to restore public confidence.

The report, chaired by former High Court judge Sir Robert Owen, who conducted the inquest and public inquiry into Russian poisoning victim Alexander Litvinenko makes recommendations for improvements. It highlights “costly delay and duplication” of a system that has “insufficient concern for the needs of those affected by disasters” with the bereaved and survivors “often left confused, betrayed and re-traumatised”.

It calls for a central inquiry team to run such investigations. “Previous experience has not been routinely captured,” it said.

It also calls for greater collaboration between investigating agencies to prevent those affected from having repeatedly to recount traumatic events. Sir Robert said that a system cannot provide justice if its processes “exacerbate the grief and trauma” of participants.

I think Sir Robert Owen and his group are right about the public having low confidence in official inquiries. It seems to me that we’ve seen them repeatedly used, especially by Boris Johnson and the Tories, as a way of whitewashing or trying escape the blame for their catastrophic decisions. The Grenfell fire, and the way its victims have been treated, with many still homeless years after the government promised that they’d be rehoused, is a case in point.

But I have absolutely no doubt that these reforms won’t be implemented by Boris. He’s used public inquiries himself as a way of deflecting blame and attention away from his government. It’s not just with major disasters, but also lesser issues like the allegations about islamophobia. There are revelations that the Tories are riddled with it, and the Equalities Commission was prepared to launch an inquiry. Until Boris said that he was going to launch one himself. So the Equalities Commission backed down. So far, there has been no Tory inquiry into islamophobia in the party, and I doubt there ever will be. But as Mike has pointed out, this incident also shows that the Equalities Commission is politically biased and unfit for purpose. It spent years trying to uncover the largely spurious anti-Semitism in the Labour party. But when it comes to casting the same critical glance over the Tories because of the very real, poisonous hatred of Muslims there, it does nothing.

And then there’s Boris’ promise at the time of the Black Lives Matter protests to do something about the Black community’s condition in Britain. This was going to be another inquiry. Just like Tweezer promised one.

The government has made too many broken promises, and arranged too many public inquiries to allow officials and senior MPs and government leaders to escape blame. The Justice reform group are right – the system’s reform is urgently needed. But Boris and co. will continue abusing it for as long as they can get away with it. And with a mendacious, complicit press and media, that’s going to be a long time.