Once again the winkle-pin has knocked aside the horny cap and dragged the animal into daylight. The case of Milly Dowler has shone a fierce light into the ways that we try serious cases. Mea culpa has been cried by the DPP and by the officer in charge of the investigation. These come at a time when other shortcomings of the judicial system are still raw. On top of all this, we have the media stretching the rubber band of what they can and cannot report.
There were calls from the Dowler family for a return to capital punishment. I have read calls for a total Royal Commission into our entire legal system. I am reminded of my sociological-studying days of media hysteria. My first observation would be that none of the discussion has really been in relation to the system; rather that it was not faithfully followed. The police did not empathise with the family in advising them first that the case was going to trial, the DPP said that the performance of his department could have been better. The judge declined a request to have some evidence heard in camera. The Press may have overstepped the mark in demonising the murderer so that his trial for kidnapping had to be abandoned. One assumes that the Press have legal advice; seems none picked up on the claimed prejudicial reporting. If these faults had not occurred, we would merely be left to debate what a bad bastard the murderer was and be glad he is where the sun does not shine.
A review of our Justice System would need,I suppose, to start with PACE and run through to parole. Everywhere along the way we would run into matters that could themselves alone provide fodder for a Commission. I can imagine that the gathering of evidence and publication of the finished report would take up 10 years or so. First we would have to decide what was wrong with the existing arrangement. Then would come soliciting amendments and evaluation of these. Then the nitty gritty of drafting a replacement and the delay in getting through the procedures to formulate any new policy. And all this time we would be trying to administer justice in accordance with laws that we have today. The adage of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' comes to mind. What is required is a new procedure to ensure that all concerned know the requirements and make certain they are complied with. Industry has developed Zero Fault procedures in quality control; these could be the basis for such supervision.