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Best Practices for Families of Homicide Victims: A Seamless Continuum of Care and Services

NCJ Number
Gazette Volume: 65 Issue: 2 Dated: Summer 2003 Pages: 32-34
Michael Thomas; Elizabeth Repchuck
Date Published
3 pages
This article describes the collaborative partnership between the Major Crime Unit (MCU) and the Victim Services Branch (VSB) of the Hamilton Police Service to assist the families of homicide victims.
Family members of homicide victims often find themselves re-victimized by a criminal justice system that seems indifferent to their suffering. In order to better respond to families of homicide victims, the MCU and the VSB formed a collaborative partnership with the goal of assisting the family members through the legal process with as little trauma as possible. To this end, protocol is described that gives VSB primary responsibility for responding to the emotional and psychological impact of a homicide on the victim's family members. The article also describes the policy set forth in the Ontario Major Case Management Manual to limit the number of professionals who deal with a victim's family in order to minimize upsetting situations. The protocol through which a family is notified of a homicide and taken through the criminal justice process is described, including the importance of explaining to victim's families why some information of the investigation process cannot be revealed to them. Throughout the process, the role of the VSB is to help family members with immediate and practical needs and to ensure their rights are respected. The collaboration between MCU and VSB is described as invaluable to helping both the investigation and legal process and to assisting victim's family members in coping with their grief.