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Public inaugural lecture to address police accountability in relation to crimes of sexual violence

Press release issued: 16 February 2015

Over the last decade, repeated public concern has been expressed about the persistence of a low rate of conviction for rape relative to rising levels of reporting. Police attitudes and conduct towards such crimes have come under the public microscope as mounting evidence suggests that how the police handle and investigate rape complaints may be part of the problem rather than a solution. These important issues will be addressed at a free public inaugural lecture [19 Feb] given by Joanne Conaghan, Professor of Law and Head of School at the University of Bristol.

Similar criticisms have been levelled in relation to domestic violence and allegations of sexual abuse.  The general consensus of such criticisms is that the police are systematically failing victims of sexual and domestic abuse, a group who are disproportionately represented by women and children.  

Should the victims of these crimes be able to sue the police for failures in the investigatory process? Does civil liability provide victims with an alternative to the inadequacies of the criminal justice system? How can law be used to hold the police and other public authorities to account for their actions? These important questions will be addressed at a free public lecture [19 Feb] given by Joanne Conaghan, Professor of Law and Head of School at the University of Bristol.

Highlighting  a succession of studies cataloguing police failings, from initial reporting through to final disposition of a case, providing unequivocal evidence deep structural, institutional and cultural problems going to the heart of the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, Professor Conaghan will ask the question:  what does it take to tackle this seemingly intractable problem? Can the threat of civil liability be used strategically to bring about the transformative cultural and institutional change in police attitudes and practices? Or does the turn to litigation create as many problems as it solves?

The public inaugural lecture entitled ‘Civil liability - Addressing police failures in the context of rape and sexual abuse’ is hosted by the Bristol Law School and will take place at 6 pm on Thursday 19 February 2015 in the Wills Memorial Building, Queen’s Road, Bristol, BS8 1RJ. The event is free to attend but booking is required via the online form.

Professor Conaghan has written more extensively on this subject on a PolicyBristol blog.

Further information

About Professor Joanne Conaghan

Joanne joined the Bristol Law School in August 2013 having previously taught at the Universities of Kent, Exeter and San Diego California. A graduate and postgraduate of St Hugh’s College Oxford, Joanne has written extensively about issues relating to gender and law and is widely recognised as a leading scholar in that field, both nationally and internationally. She took up her position as Head of University of Bristol Law School in August 2014.  You can follow Joanne on twitter: @joanneconaghan

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