Giving victims a proper voice in future public inquiries

  • Date

    Mon 4 Dec 23

An empty podium at the front of a hall

If we are to learn anything from recent public inquiries such as Grenfell Tower and COVID-19 it is to highlight the key role victims’ voices have in getting to the truth and delivering justice.

Now, a new report by University of Essex and La Trobe University researchers is calling for public inquiries to be redesigned so victims’ voices are firmly at the heart of future investigations.

Building on knowledge and experiences from recent public inquiries, the report is recommending remodeling inquiries to include “lived experience panels” (LEPs) so the victims’ voices are central to the inquiry.

“By introducing ‘lived experience panels’ into future public inquiries we will ensure survivors are engaged in a new, better and safer way,” explained the report’s co-author Dr Danny Taggart, from Essex’s School of Health and Social Care.

“As well as giving their personal experiences the survivors become architects of the inquiry. This also means an inquiry’s findings will be more acceptable for other survivors as the proceedings has been designed by people like them.  

Co-author Associate Professor Katie Wright, from the Department of Social Inquiry at La Trobe University in Melbourne, hopes the report’s recommendations will be used by future inquiries to frame their strategies for engaging with victim and survivors, which will ultimately make inquiries more successful in delivering justice.

The report – Lived Experience Panels Consulting to Inquiries: Maximising Benefits and Minimising Harms – emerged from research examining the pioneering and world-leading work of the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel (VSCP) of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) 2015-2022, which was the largest public inquiry ever commissioned in the UK.

The members of the panel at IICSA were all co-researchers on this project and co-authors of the report and recommendations.

Dr Taggart explained: “Our research found that their role made a significant, positive difference in reducing the risks of re-traumatisation to other survivors who engaged with the inquiry as participants, and also the wellbeing of staff who worked there

“Our recommendations can contribute to remodelling public inquiries and ensure that future lived experience panels can ensure public inquiries are able to engage with the people affected in a way that is healthy and safe."

Associate Professor Wright added: “Our research with the VSCP has generated important new knowledge that will inform future abuse inquiries, both in the UK and internationally.”

Project co-researcher Lucy Duckworth, from The Survivor Trust who was on the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel (VSCP), added: “Rethinking how we involve survivors and victims in public inquiries will not only reduce harm to those with lived experience, but will result in more productive and efficient processes from the beginning, saving resources and improving outcomes and ultimately providing acceptance and potentially healing, via a meaningful experience of accountability for those with lived experience of any trauma.”