When Bishop James was approached to consider chairing the Commission, two points struck him as compelling.
The first was the need for what the Bishop has termed its bifocal remit – namely that the issues surrounding the experience of prisoners should not be considered without also considering the experience of victims and their families. The former Victims’ Commissioner had highlighted that victims felt left in the dark when sentences were given. There is clearly an agenda about whether and, if so, how victims and their families could be more closely involved, not least in pursuing a restorative purpose.
The second point was the realisation that the methodology employed in the Bishop’s Report “The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power” would be applicable. That is to say, combining listening to prisoners and to victims and their families, allowing their own words to express their experience authentically; and then drawing out the relevant points of learning to affect the public debate and the development of public policy.
The work of the Commission, with its bifocal approach of giving a voice to prisoners and to victims, is reflected in its Terms of Reference. Through a rolling Programme of panel meetings and interviews, the Commission will hear directly from victims and their families and from prisoners, former prisoners and their families. By working with specialists in engagement with victims and prisoners, it will ensure that people are properly supported through the process of consultation and that a diverse and representative range of voices are heard. As part of its evidence gathering, the Commission will also conduct a targeted written consultation with key stakeholders.
Preliminary meetings were held towards the end of 2019 and the process of gathering and receiving evidence will run until the beginning of 2021. The principal product of the Commission’s work will be a Final Report, due to be published in mid-2021, combining the voices of victims and prisoners with an expert analysis of the available research and background to policy affecting both victims and prisoners.
In planning the Independent Commission into the Experience of Victims and Long-term Prisoners, the Chair aimed to secure the services of wholly independent experts in their fields.
Experience showed that it would need expertise in Justice, Ethics, Prisons Reform, Forgiveness and Governance as well as Data/information Management.
Accordingly, the membership of the Commission will be as follows:
The Right Reverend James Jones KBE was the Bishop of Liverpool between 1998 and 2013 and the Bishop of Hull from 1994 to 1998. Bishop James served as Bishop to Prisons from 2006 to 2013. The Bishop was a member of the House of Lords from 2003 to 2013 speaking on criminal and restorative justice issues, the environment, and urban regeneration.
In 2009, the Bishop was appointed by the Home Secretary to chair the Hillsborough Independent Panel examining all the documentation concerning the death of 96 Liverpool football fans at the 1989 FA Cup Semifinal. The Panel reported in September 2012 and this led to the quashing of the original inquests. He then served as Adviser to the Home Secretary on Hillsborough from 2013-2018.
Marina Cantacuzino is an award-winning journalist who in 2004, in response to the invasion of Iraq, founded The Forgiveness Project, a charity that works with the personal narratives of victims and perpetrators to explore peaceful solutions to conflict. Marina’s book The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age was published in the US and UK in 2015, and in 2018 she co-authored the illustrated book Forgiveness is Really Strange. She has also contributed several essays to anthologies on the subject of forgiveness and justice.
Bill Kirkup worked as a ward orderly, a doctor specialising in obstetrics & gynaecological oncology and Associate Chief Medical Officer for England. He volunteered to work on Public Health & Reconstruction as a civilian alongside military operations in Kosovo, Baghdad & Iraq and Afghanistan. Since retiring from Public Health, he works mainly on independent investigations, including into Children’s Heart Surgery in Oxford, Jimmy Savile’s involvement at Broadmoor Hospital, Morecambe Bay Maternity Services and Liverpool Community Services. He also served as a member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, the Gosport War Memorial Hospital Panel and chaired the investigations into the death of Elizabeth Dixon, as well as East Kent Maternity Services.
Michelle Nelson took Silk in 2019. As Treasury Counsel she has prosecuted and defended in some of the most serious, difficult and high profile criminal cases, and has advised on sentence appeals for the Attorney and Solicitor General and on behalf of defendant’s in death row cases in Trinidad, Jamaica and the U.S. Michelle is a member of the Westminster Commission on Miscarriages of Justice, a Trustee of the Prison Reform Trust and Chair of Ekaya Housing Association.
Michael Spurr worked in Prisons and Probation for 36 years. He was Governor at HMYOI Aylesbury; HMP Wayland and HMP/YOI Norwich and CEO of the National Offender Management Service/HM Prison and Probation Service 2010-2019. He is currently a Visiting Professor in Practice in the Social Policy Department at the London School of Economics; a Board Member of the International Corrections and Prisons Association and Chair of Whitechapel Mission providing services to the homeless in East London.
After three decades of award-winning journalism, from over 30 countries, Paul Vallely has worked with government, churches, charities and business on projects to strengthen the common good. He was co-author of the report of the Prime Minister’s Commission for Africa and an adviser to the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, writing their report ‘A Place of Redemption: A Christian approach to Punishment and Prison‘. A founding member of the Board of Corporate Social Responsibility for Waitrose supermarkets, he has also advised the John Lewis Partnership on Human Rights in the supply chain. He is Visiting Professor in Public Ethics at the University of Chester and a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester. He was made a CMG in the 2006 Birthday Honours List.
Christine Gifford is a recognised expert in the fields of Access to Information and Disclosure. Her team of investigators worked on the Al Sweady Public Inquiry and, as a Panel Member, she personally led on access to information, its management and disclosure on both the Hillsborough and Gosport Independent Panels.
The Secretariat is led by Ken Sutton as Secretary to the Commission.
It is responsible for the administration of the Commission, logistical organisation and governance and initial engagement with victims, prisoners and families, as well as individuals and organisations who will participate in the Consultation.
Ken is assisted by Amy Brownrigg, Mark Day and Ann Ridley.