Families who have lost loved ones under terrible circumstances are facing costs of £37,000 on average as they struggle to pick up the pieces, according to figures released today
The Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, Louise Casey, released the figures ahead of the publication of her policy review into the help and support given to families bereaved through murder, manslaughter or culpable road death, next month.
The figures are based on a unique survey of 36 bereaved families who have had to find money for travel costs to trials, legal costs associated with ongoing court proceedings, for counselling for themselves and children to cope with trauma or even to clear up a murder scene or for having to move house. This is all compounded by the fact that people are often traumatised and suffer loss of earnings because they are unable to work.
Of the families that were surveyed, legal costs ranged between £280 and £150,000. The money was often needed for estate settlements and applications for residency orders in cases where a child’s parent may have been killed. The majority of those families surveyed had to meet these costs themselves.
Ms Casey said:
'During my first year in office I have met scores of families who have been bereaved through crime and while talking to me about the huge emotional impacts upon them, many mentioned almost in passing, having to get into debt or re-mortgage their house to pay for expenses because of what happened to their loved one.
'Things we perhaps don’t think about after reading a headline in a newspaper about a crime – such as travelling and staying in London for a court trial, cleaning up a murder scene in your house, needing to move home, being unable to return to work or having to take on the care of children as a grand parent if your child has been killed.
'This can all run into thousands of pounds and what we also know is that families who are affected by these kinds of crime are more likely to come from poorer backgrounds and therefore be even less likely to cope with sudden financial pressures.'
The Victims’ Commissioner will shortly present a policy review to the Justice Secretary about the current support and services available to families. It will emphasise the need for existing resources to be better targeted to those who need it most.
Ms Casey added:
'This isn’t about necessarily handing out more compensation to families, but about getting the right practical help and support to those who need it most.'