Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Victim's Commissioner Report: Needs of families bereaved by homicide

A Review by the Victim's Commissioner - Louise Casey - has been published - "Review into the needs of families bereaved by homicide."    See also the Ministry of Justice website and the response to the review from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).    In the foreword to the review, Kenneth Clarke (Secretary of State for Justice) states - "Government can never make things right for families bereaved through crime and it would be foolish to pretend that any level of support could ever achieve this. But we can do more to ensure that families get the help they need and that the practical impacts of bereavement are minimised. The work of the Victims’ Commissioner in producing this report, and the contributions of the many families which made it possible, constitute an important step towards these goals."

There are several interesting and valuable recommendations set out in Chapter 6 where
Casey states - "The death of a loved one in any circumstances is a personal tragedy and a time of grief and emotional distress. Families bereaved by homicide face not only the bereavement itself, but in many cases, traumatic grief and its dreadful physical and emotional effects; at the same time they also face a legion of practical problems and perhaps most significantly in most cases, they face the criminal justice system. This system appropriates not only the body of their loved one to use as evidence, but in the process their lives, and often the lives of the family around them can be turned upside down in pursuit of a prosecution or in defence. Yet while this aspect dominates their lives, the criminal justice system barely recognises that family, because they have no formal status.

There is much at stake for all parties in a homicide trial – for the Crown and the defendant and their defence team. But for the bereaved family who are there to bear witness for their loved one, who want to see justice is done and to find out what happened, their interest in the process is often barely recognised."

Some of the recommendations amount to little more than commonsense basic decency and should not be difficult to implement.  For example, provide written copies of sentencing remarks to the victim's family or inform the family when an appeal against conviction is lodged.  Other recommendations will require resources.  Kenneth Clarke said - "I will consider [the] findings and recommendations in full but I propose to make an immediate commitment of half a million pounds to deliver some tangible, practical changes."

No comments:

Post a Comment