The Post Office Project
The Post Office Project

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The Research

Our research questions are:

  1. What can the Post Office Scandal tell us about the causal pathways that lead to professional ethical problems for lawyers and miscarriages of justice? [RQ1]
  2. How did the victims of the Post Office Scandal experience ethical problems (referred to in RQ1) within their handling by the wider criminal justice system, and what can this tell us about failures to provide access to justice and mitigation of vulnerability? [RQ2]
  3. What explicit and implicit decision-making models shape causal pathways between ethical failures and miscarriages of justice? [RQ3]
  4. What ethical models have practical resonance with legal professionals? And how can they be strengthened? [RQ4]

Building and innovating on prior research, we focus on causal pathways, which we define as the ways of thinking and structural conditions for the professional pathologies we are interested in.

These pathways will show how ethical malpractice is constructed, legitimated, or ignored within organisations. Pathways should show where the problems identified in them can be resisted and professionally questionable practices prevented.

How we will be researching them:

We will develop these causal pathways using three complementary methods:. By analysing the detailed evidence emerging from the Inquiry, and through interviews, especially with the victims, we to build up in-depth, multi-faceted case-studies of the actions and behaviour of the lawyers involved in the scandal. This will enable us to test and develop theories of professional wrongdoing. We will then work with practising lawyers to carry out causal mapping, a cognitive mapping technique suitable for exploring decision-making under uncertainty. We will seek to capture the structure and content of lawyers’ thought processes (their explicit decision models) as they consider the types of ethical challenges encountered in legal practice found in the Post Office Scandal. And we will then carry out policy-capturing , a technique of social judgment analysis through experiments to gain insights into the varying factors influencing lawyers’ decision-making in the moment (their implicit decision models).

These three methods will be used to triangulate hypotheses for causal pathways in richly contextualized ways. Observations will be grounded in detailed, real settings, from multiple perspectives, where deeply contextualised understanding of social action and meaning are possible.

Our central approach is to

Work with victim-survivors, lawyers, and others to develop practical, well-evidenced insights into the Scandal that will make a difference.

This project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
It will run from 2023-2026.