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Ministry of Justice

Victims' Commissioner news

The latest news from the Victims' Commissioner.


Victims’ Commissioner to review support given to bereaved families

16 December 2010

A policy review into the help and support given to families bereaved by murder, manslaughter and culpable road death was announced today by the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses Louise Casey.

Ms Casey has spent the first months in her new role meeting victims’ families across the country, where she has been struck by the mismatch between the help and support that a member of the public may assume bereaved families would have access to and the reality of their experience.

The review, working with partners including the CPS, Victim Support and victims’ organisations will look at:

  • The quality and timeliness of information, advice and support provided by all Criminal Justice agencies to families - from the police investigation through the courts process and beyond;
  • The levels of trauma families suffer, the significant impact on children including their longer term care and the financial burdens and pressures that families have to face in the wake of such awful crimes; and
  • The wide range of practical, emotional and therapeutic support that bereaved families desperately need in both the short and longer term -  and how well those needs are being met

Research has shown that, quite apart from the obvious grief and personal loss, being bereaved through murder, manslaughter or culpable road death can have devastating and long term impacts on many areas of life. For example, studies have indicated that those bereaved by homicide have a higher than normal risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), drug dependency, relationship breakdown and loss of employment.

Louise Casey said:

'We owe it to these families not just to prosecute the perpetrator of the crime, but to ensure that those who are affected by that crime are given the right kind of help during a really traumatic time.

'From the outset, the ability of a family to grieve is compromised by the criminal investigation as the body becomes the property of the state. Then comes the financial burden – in addition to the cost of a funeral, families have to find money for the cost of post-mortem reports, inquest documents, travel and court judgements. Such financial pressures often also coincide with a loss of earnings if you are unable to return to work.

'When you consider that around a quarter of murders happen within a ‘family’ context, for surviving children there will often be massive upheaval on top of their grief, and no guarantee for those children they will even get therapeutic help. 

'I have met many bereaved families who have shared their experiences with me and while their greatest pain is the violent death of a loved one, what follows when the criminal justice system swings into action often exacerbates that pain and thrusts people into a world which at times seems only to re-traumatise those families. It cannot be beyond our capability to afford families dignity, respect and practical help in the process of justice.'

In the coming months Ms Casey will be gathering evidence from bereaved families and combing the existing research to build a better picture of bereavement. She will use this evidence to make a report to the Secretary of State for Justice in the spring of 2011.

Notes to editors

  1. Sources:

'For example, studies have indicated that those bereaved by homicide have a higher than normal risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), drug dependency, relationship breakdown and loss of employment'

  • Zinzow, H., Rheingold, A., Hawkins, A., Saunders, B., Kilpatrick, D., (2009) ‘Losing a Loved One to Homicide: Prevalence and Mental Health Correlates in a National Sample of Young Adults’ in Journal of Traumatic Stress vol. 22, No.1;
  • Mezey, G., Evans, C., Hobdell, K. (2002) ‘Families of homicide victims: Psychiatric responses and help-seeking’ in Psychology and Psychotherapy: Therapy, Research and Practice vol.75. British Psychological Society;
  • Victim Support (2006) In the Aftermath: The support needs of people bereaved by homicide: a research report. Victim Support; and
  • Rock (1998) After Homicide: Practical and Political Responses to Bereavement. Clarendon Press: Oxford.

'When you consider that around a quarter of murders happen within a ‘family’ context'

  • In 2008/09 198 out of 651 homicides were committed against a family member (including partners/ex-partners). See Smith, K., Flatley, J., Coleman, K., Osborne, S., Kaiza, P., and Roe, S. (2010) Homicide, Firearms Offences and Intimate Violence 2008/09 Home Office Statistical Bulletin 01/10.

Mail online article - 16 December 2010


Statement by the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, Louise Casey CB

1 December 2010

Police and Crime Commissioners

I have long argued that all constituent parts of the Criminal Justice System need to open up and become more accountable to the public that they serve. The creation of Police and Crime Commissioners means that the top concerns and priorities of local people will be at the forefront of decision-making when it comes to how police operate. Good police do this already – but this puts accountability and transparency into law.

I particularly welcome the fact that the new Commissioners will have to listen to the views of victims in their locality; this is something I have argued strongly to be included in their remit.

Victims are the people who are on the receiving end of crime and the Criminal Justice System, but their needs are often overlooked. Victims are the poor relation in the Criminal Justice System and this is an important step in the right direction in getting their views heard.


Louise Casey interviewed on ITV Tonight

29 November 2010

The Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses was interviewed on the ITV Tonight programme on Monday 29 November about victims' experiences across the criminal justice system.



Louise Casey takes part in a policy exchange panel

25 November 2010

The Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses took part in a Policy Exchange panel about community sentences on Thursday 25 November.



Louise Casey talks to MPs on the Justice Committee

17 November 2010

The Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses was questioned by MP’s from the Justice Select Committee on Tuesday 9 November about her work.

Watch the meeting: The role of the Probation Service


Transcript of the meeting

Victims’ Commissioner addresses a memorial service for bereaved families

9 November 2010

The Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses Louise Casey will be addressing a memorial service on Saturday 11 December for families and friends bereaved by homicide.

The Justice for Victims 16th Annual memorial service starts at 11am at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square and is organised by KnifeCrimes.org


Victims’ Commissioner calls for end to right to trial by jury

3 November 2010

Two radical proposals for transforming the criminal justice system for victims while saving the taxpayer millions were outlined today by the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses Louise Casey.

She called for:

  • an end to the right to trial by jury for defendants in petty crime cases which clog up the court system;
  • the prevention of late guilty pleas which allow criminals to string out their cases at the expense of the public.

In her report “Ending the Justice Waiting Game: a plea for common sense”, Ms Casey continues to argue that victims are the “poor relation” in the criminal justice system.

 



Victims' Commissioner Louise Casey addresses the Criminal Justice Management Conference

6 October 2010

Speaking at the Criminal Justice Management Conference, Louise Casey outlined some of her early impressions in the role of the first Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses.



New report says victims are the poor relation in the criminal justice system

20 July 2010

Body Victims and witnesses are the "poor relation" in the criminal justice system when it comes to where money is spent, according to a new report published today by the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, Louise Casey, on the day of her inaugural speech.



National Victims' Association annual conference

17 July 2010

The National Victims' Association (NVA) provides a comprehensive advocacy, advice, counselling and support service to families bereaved through murder or manslaughter. NVA held its 12th Annual Conference on Saturday 17th July 2010 in South Shields with Louise Casey as guest speaker.