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The Case for a Royal Commission on the Penal System

An initiative supported by leading political, academic, religious and professional figures and in association with Queen Mary University of London. Virtually half-a-century has passed since the last Royal Commission on the Penal System was dissolved, its work uncompleted. Looking forwards, six members of the Commission asserted that 'after some years' a new Royal Commission would be of great public service. As commentators, writers and practitioners, Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC and Professor Sean McConville have many decades of experience of penal policy and practice. Some 20-years ago they urged the appointment of a new Royal Commission on the subject. They have since pressed their case in letters to major newspapers and in earlier writings. In this publication the momentum for which is supported by leading figures, they make the case for a new Royal Commission that will be reflective, effective and swift, capable of building consensus and providing directions for generations. They argue that penal policy is fragmented and frequently irrational, contradictory, counterproductive, insubstantial and put together in a haphazard way.The dynamics and pressures of party politics inevitably mean that penal policy often emerges in response to hard cases and headlines. As this pamphlet claims, broader and more considered views, drawing on evidence and seeking to maximise social good, cannot be delivered by politicians afraid of missing an opportunity to score party political points.
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About the Author

Sean McConville is Professor of Law and Public Policy at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of a multi-volume history of punishment and his most recent works include Irish Political Prisoners 1920 - 1962: Pilgrimage of Desolation (Routledge, 2013) and Routledge Guide to Interviewing (with Anna Bryson) (Routledge, 2013). Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC appeared in many high-profile trials. He holds a number of honorary doctorates and is a fellow of King's College, London. His books include Fine, Lines and Distinctions: Murder, Manslaughter and the Taking of Human Life (with Terence Morris) (2011). Sir Henry Brooke is a former Lord Justice of Appeal. He was the judge in charge of the modernisation of the English law courts from 2001 to 2004.


'A first step which will, if taken forward, be of substantial long term benefit for society and offenders': Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers.

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