Students Staff

10 February 2014

Double injustice, double trauma: new research into effects of aquittals on families

Colchester Campus

Old Bailey

The “double injustice, double trauma” plight of families of victims of homicide where the suspect has been acquitted has been highlighted in new research from the University.

The report, written by Dr Darren Thiel, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology at Essex, will be discussed at a special event in the House of Commons on Tuesday 11 February to raise awareness of the issue.

Dr Thiel’s report describes the experiences of 15 family members from across the UK who have gone through the murder of a loved one, a murder trial and the subsequent acquittal of the suspect.

Organised by the support group Justice After Acquittal (JAA), which campaigns for legal rights and support for victims’ families following an acquittal after a murder trial, the seminar has attracted support from the former Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer and MPs Stephen Dorrell and Debbie Abrahams, who will all talk at the event.

The JAA is calling for the implementation of National Minimum Standards (NMS) of support for families which involve a series of meetings where the Crown Prosecution Service and the police work collaboratively and with families to offer support and identify ways forward after an acquittal.

As Dr Thiel explained, the standards involve better communication with the victims’ families after the acquittal, to help them understand what has happened.

“These families feel abandoned by the current system. It is all about recognition for their loved one when there is a conviction and a sense of abandonment when there is no conviction,” said Dr Thiel, “Arguably when there is no conviction they need more support than families who have seen a conviction, but in reality this does not happen.”

The Criminal Justice System's support for victims’ families has improved over the past 15 years but the JAA feels these reforms have not gone far enough for supporting these families.

The plight of these families has already gained support within the police with Metropolitan Police Commander Graham McNulty agreeing to pilot the NMS for six months.

The JAA is hoping the event on Tuesday will gain more support for the campaign to get all police forces across the country to adopt the NMS as guidance for good practice to support families of victims of homicide when there has been an acquittal.


Note to editors
For more information on the seminar or the report “Double Injustice, Double Trauma” please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or email

To contact Justice After Acquittal (JAA) call 07902 929379.

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