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New Law Presented For Bereaved Families

The Victims' Commissioner, Louise Casey, will today call for a new law which will put into statute rights for families bereaved by homicide.

The move follows a six-month review by Ms Casey, into the treatment of families who have suffered the ultimate loss at the hands of criminals, but who often don't get the support, care or consideration they deserve.

Ms Casey's report, which includes the largest ever survey of bereaved families, calls for a law which will set out rights that the criminal justice system should afford families as well as the practical help and support they should receive.

The Victims' Commissioner said: “I have met many families who have had loved ones murdered and they talk about how the legal process was almost as traumatic as the crime itself. This can't be right. We ask people not to go out and take the law into their own hands. We ask that people come to court and give evidence so that nasty people can be locked up. In return, the criminal justice system needs to do better.”

Ms Casey continued: “Families deserve to bury the body of their child without defence lawyers asking for autopsy after autopsy. They deserve not to have to sit next to the defendant's family in court listening to them laughing, or being intimidated by them. They deserve to be told that their husband's killer is going to be released before they bump into him in a supermarket. They deserve to be treated with some humanity in the witness box.

“Bereaved families have few rights, no real route of complaint, they are often given little information and sometimes treated as an inconvenience in a legal game. Now is the time for something concrete to be set out in law - promises are no longer good enough. The system must be levelled up so victims and bereaved families are no longer seen as bystanders or an inconvenience as the wheels of justice turn.”

The support package should include a dedicated homicide caseworker offering help and advice on issues like housing and child care proceedings.

There should be access to trauma and bereavement counselling from approved providers and a national network of peer support groups should be available to provide befriending and support for families.

Ms Casey has also called for a national protocol governing the police's review of cases which remain unresolved including how regularly they are reviewed and mandatory communication with the families concerned.

Recommendations in Ms Casey's report were informed by the largest survey of bereaved families ever undertaken. More than 400 families were contacted to inform her review and reveal the true toll of bereavement on families.

The report will be presented to the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.


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