‘Towards Justice’ report calls for joined-up approach to supporting victims of past harms

A new report being launched in Westminster today by educational charity Cumberland Lodge calls on police, politicians, and policymakers to take a more joined-up approach to responding to past harms – and place the needs of victims, survivors, and their fa

Front cover of Cumberland Lodge report Towards Justice

A new report launched in Westminster today by educational charity Cumberland Lodge calls on police, politicians, and policymakers to take a more joined-up approach to responding to past harms – and place the needs of victims, survivors, and their families at the heart of this.

A key recommendation in Towards Justice: Law Enforcement & Reconciliation supports calls for the introduction of an Independent Public Advocate as a priority, to act as a single port of call for the provision of support to those affected. 

The report acknowledges the complexity of the situation that victims can experience when engaging with multiple agencies and advises that lessons from the Public Advocate system as used in some US states should be considered. 

Towards Justice offers a unique, cross-sector insight by drawing on the combined experience and expertise of a delegation of police officers, academics, non-governmental organisations, policymakers, and practitioners.

These were gathered at a Cumberland Lodge Police Conference, which heard contributions from high-profile guest speakers as well as powerful testimonies from victims, survivors and families of non-recent harms and abuses, ranging from child sexual abuse within institutions, to Hillsborough and the contaminated blood products scandal.

The report, which is being submitted to the Ministry of Justice in response to its consultation on delivering justice for victims, sets out practical recommendations, each expanded on within the document, for dealing with past harms in society in ways that are just and humane for the victims, survivors and families involved.

Growing calls for a duty of candour for serving and retired police officers, as well as other public bodies, are echoed in the report, which notes that a lack of transparency can lead to mistrust and suspicion of cover-ups. 

It recommends a review of the existing forms of remedy open to victims, survivors of non-recent harms and their families, to address tensions which have emerged over time and ensure that they meet the needs of those most affected.

It encourages exploration of alternative systems of remedy such as restorative justice, which has gained momentum in other areas of the criminal justice system.

It urges the relevant parties involved to recognise that non-recent harms continue to resonate in the present, and the essential need to apply learning from recent responses to non-recent harms and their relative successes and failings to continually improve the systems of remedy.

Fundamentally, the report urges those institutions responsible for responding to allegations of harm to remember that they are dealing with human beings who are facing highly charged, traumatising and emotional situations.

Towards Justiceis the latest in a series of reports on policing and society produced by Cumberland Lodge through its long-standing association with the police. Each year the charity’s annual Police Conference convenes a multi-agency delegation to discuss key issues in policing and criminal justice.

This report is based on discussions from the 2021 conference as well as three public webinars, which included insights from Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird; Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Robert Beckley, Overall Command of the Hillsborough investigation; and Wendy Williams, author of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review.

Dr Edmund Newell, Chief Executive of Cumberland Lodge, said:
“Towards Justice adds momentum to the growing calls for improvement in the approach to responding to past harms. Underlying our report is the recognition that the passing of time is not healing for victims if injustice persists, and risks making issues more contentious, problematic – and costly – for all concerned. We hope that its publication will be an important step towards improving policy and practice.”

Professor Martina Feilzer, author of Towards Justice for Cumberland Lodge and Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Bangor University, said:
“Listening to those who have experienced the responses to non-recent harms – victims, their families and supporters, police and other professionals – as well as academics and a wider audience has provided unique insights into the flaws of current systems and processes. It is essential that the systems of remedy in place do not add further harm and pain to existing suffering and that we recognise the longer-term reverberations of the trauma caused by the complex harms we examined.”

Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney of Hampshire Constabulary, Chair of the Cumberland Lodge Police Steering Committee, said:“The trauma from major suffering continues to the present day, however long ago it took place. The police have a role in bringing living offenders to justice, as one vital aspect of remedy for survivors which must also help prevent such suffering happening again. More broadly, remedies which are open, candid, humane, independent and which also address accountability for suffering are necessary.”

The Right Reverend James Jones, formerly Chair of the Hillsborough Independent Panel and a speaker at the report launch, said: 
“Today’s report rightly recognises that the passing of time is not healing for victims if injustice persists. Its analysis and recommendations deal directly with how justice can be better served and echoes a number of points of learning identified in my report, The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power. I am encouraged that today’s publication will help prompt the Government to bring forward its response as soon as possible and to respond positively to both reports.” 

Read the report

A copy of the report can be downloaded here.