If Advocates Investigate do Investigators Advocate? A Role Confusion at the Heart of Injustice?
Awakening to yet another report of ‘fudged’ life changing investigation, this time centred on child abuse in Ireland, rekindles concern that the phrase investigation is far too readily banded about without real consideration of the impact of an investigation or the qualities and competencies of those nominated to conduct them. (see http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/ireland/grace-inquiry-to-cover-all-47-children-in-home-nz9lhrxj6?CMP=TNLEmail_118918_1441247). Speaking at a recent Health and Safety conference I counted the word ‘investigation’ used over 50 times before I presented and challenged the audience to help clarify their collective understanding of its meaning. They struggled and there was no satisfactory explanation of the core competencies or qualifications required by those often charged with the responsibility of high stakes investigation and/or case reviews.
So, before expanding further, please reflect for just a moment on any issue that impacts your health or that of those you hold dear. Would you entrust that responsibility to an unqualified, unregistered, unregulated nurse or doctor? In its simplest, crudest form would you want a podiatrist to extract your tooth, a dentist to do your by-pass surgery? It really is that simple, there would rightly be outrage if you discovered that a nurse caring for you was unqualified to do so (just one evidenced example that resulted in a serial killing: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/may/18/stepping-hill-hospital-poisonings-operation-roxburg-manchester-police-victorino-chua).
Like so many I have lost count of the number of public enquiries, serious case reviews, institutional abuse investigations ongoing globally at any one time. Are the lessons ever learnt, even more significantly applied? I’ll let the reader reflect on that but add a few objective observations to help decision-making! The stock reporting phrase goes something like: ‘A (named) Barrister has been appointed to lead the investigation’. At its simplest level lawyers advocate and investigators investigate, the latter hopefully impartially in a search for verifiable facts and the truth, NOT looking to attribute blame, exploring ALL avenues not just those that fit a ‘case theory’, confirmation bias so often being the root cause of flawed investigation and outcomes.
An advocate is defined as: A person who speaks or writes in support or defence of a person, cause, etc. A person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor. A person who pleads the cause of another in a court of law.
An investigator as: A person who examines, studies, or inquires into systematically; search or examine into the particulars of; examine in detail. To search out and examine the particulars of in an attempt to learn the facts about something hidden, unique, or complex.
Both are highly skilled roles but uniquely different, the investigator ‘feeds’ the advocate.
Might this, a confusion of role, be a significant contributor to the root cause of such systemic failure, repeated mistakes and flawed investigation?
When those lines become blurred, lawyers presenting as investigators with NO investigative or interviewing training, when investigators have NO regulated external governance or workplace competency review, when, in a hierarchical system, rank equates to competency, is it a surprise that what’s left is a toxic mix that is destined to fail and lessons never learned?
As they say in my old trade, I have a view but ‘NO COMMENT’!
Finishing with a positive tone, that’s the reason we created the first OFQUAL externally verified qualification for those who interview in any context with the aim of systematically studying or examining in detail the particulars and facts about something hidden, unique, or complex. If that process is undertaken with an open mind, thoroughly and robustly, ethically, and with unconditional positive regard, accurately recorded and reported, the decision makers will be much better placed to make properly informed decisions and advocates better placed to advocate.