This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The power and speed of social media

If the establishment old guard did not know it before last week, they certainly do now know how social media is increasingly adding accountability and transparency to the democratic process. Last week, along with others, I was relaxed about the appointment of Baroness Butler-Sloss to chair the forthcoming inquiry into child sexual abuse and the role of various institutions in (allegedly) allowing such abuse to continue. 

The Home Secretary and other members of the Government defended her appointment as the rising tide of dissent began to emerge on social media. Increasingly questions were being asked not about the retired judge's impartiality but about whether she would be seen to be impartial. Without both, the inquiry risked paddling up a back water as potential important witnesses felt increasingly reluctant to come forward and tell their stories.

And so it came to pass that Baroness Butler-Sloss stepped down from the child abuse inquiry. All credit to her for these wise comments:
"It has become apparent over the last few days, however, that there is a widespread perception, particularly among victim and survivor groups, that I am not the right person to chair the inquiry. It has also become clear to me that I did not sufficiently consider whether my background and the fact my brother had been attorney general would cause difficulties. This is a victim-orientated inquiry and those who wish to be heard must have confidence that the members of the panel will pay proper regard to their concerns and give appropriate advice to government. Having listened to the concerns of victim and survivor groups and the criticisms of MPs and the media, I have come to the conclusion that I should not chair this inquiry and have so informed the Home Secretary."
Before the advent of social media the 'victim & survivor groups' may well have struggled to get their message out and across to a wider audience. Now, this is not the case.

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