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Bishop James Jones calls for Royal Commission on future of policing

01 February 2022


Bishop James Jones in 2017, after publishing his report

Bishop James Jones in 2017, after publishing his report

THE former Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones, has called for the establishment of a Royal Commission on the future of policing.

Bishop Jones, who chaired the independent panel which blamed a lack of police control for the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 (Comment, 22 October 2021), said that he had reflected on the continuing experiences of the families of the victims in their efforts to discover the truth of what happened.

“It is now 60 years since the last Royal Commission, in 1962,” he said on Tuesday. “Society has changed dramatically, and the criminal landscape even more so: non-recent cases, cyber crime, child sexual abuse, international fraud, misconduct in public office, hate speech, discrimination, trafficking, and modern slavery are but some examples that call into question whether our police services are properly established for the 21st century.

“Maintaining law and order in the modern world requires the police service to have the right recruitment, training, skills, expertise, ethics, emotional intelligence, and professional development. This is foundational to the pursuit of justice. Fundamentally, it will not be possible for the police service to steer the future without the benefit of the analysis and debate which a Royal Commission, operating beyond the reach of government departments, could provide.”

The Bishop was speaking during the launch of Towards Justice: Law enforcement and reconciliation, a report by the educational charity Cumberland Lodge. It calls on police, politicians, and policymakers to take a more joined-up approach to responding to past harms, and to place the needs of victims, survivors, and their families at the heart of that.

Bishop Jones said at the launch: “There is a change which has taken place in my lifetime. There was a time when individuals and organisations could expect to be trusted by reason of the deference shown to their role or position. That era is no more. Every organisation and individual has to earn and retain trust through demonstrating that they are speaking plainly and truthfully, and are not seeking instead to distort the truth because of the impact on their own reputation.”

The Cumberland Lodge report calls for the introduction of an independent public advocate to act as a single port of call for the provision of support to those affected in often complex situations. It also backs calls for a duty of candour for serving and retired police officers, and other public bodies, noting that a lack of transparency can lead to mistrust and suspicion of cover-ups; and it suggests alternative systems of remedy, such as restorative justice.

Cumberland Lodge’s chief executive, Canon Edmund Newell, said: “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.”

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