Monday, August 30, 2010

Homocide victims are not the only people who suffer.

The reason I have chosen to write about the issue of support for the families of homicide victims is that the mother of Liberty Templeman is raising the fact that the family members of homicide victims have even more to deal with than the usual grief and funereal logistics that tie up your life when you lose a family member to natural causes, or even accidental death.
She would like to see up to three months paid leave for those family members effected by violent loss.

I am not undermining the overwhelming grief that accompanies the loss of a friend or loved one, but I want to highlight how much more complex the process of “getting over it” must be when people have to also navigate the farce we like to call our Justice system.

Goodness knows they could use a helping hand to support them through the extra time needed.
This is not just me being a bleeding heart liberal; the logistics of a suspicious death are complex.
• Waiting for the body to be released so you can have the funeral.
• Bereavement being interrupted for questioning.
• The court process, time needed for the case, and preparation for the case.
• The possibility of it being a family member or friend under investigation (Nearly half of all homicides in New Zealand are family violence.)

On that note, would the paid leave still be given for those people whos partner had caused the death if they were not technically an accomplice? eg abused children.
This is a heavy and heated topic and as a Paediatic nurse I had to fight the RAGE that surged through me watching a family praying over the battered body of a baby beaten by one of them.

Please read on for what we are currently doing for the families of victims, and feel free to leave messages, I like to hear different opinions when voiced politely.

In 1985 NZ signed the united nations signed the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of justice for Victims of crime and abuse of power which urged member states to reconsider the victim and casting new light on the victims’ perspective.

The declaration identified four areas of assistance.
• Access to justice and fair treatment, where judicial and administrative process insures victims are kept informed and proceedings are heard appropriately and expeditiously.
• Ensure victims have adequate information and access to services, requiring the appropriate training of personnel.
• Restitution to individuals and families, restoration of the environment and restitution by governments.
• Compensation to individuals and/or families for bodily injury or impairment to physical and mental health.

The four tenants of the declaration form the basis of the victim support mission statement: Victims of crime, accident and emergency are well supported, safe and in control of restoring their lives.

NZ played an important role in the UN declaration- yet we currently don’t fulfill the international obligations towards the victims that we signed up to.

Since then, moves have been made in the right direction.
On 16 October 2009, Hon Simon Power, Minister of Justice announced eight new initiatives that will provide additional support to victims of serious crime. These initiatives are funded from revenue generated from the offender levy and funding from the disestablished Sentencing Council. Below is a summary of the initiatives taken from the NZ courts website.
Additional support for families of homicide victims
Four of the initiatives provide additional support to families of homicide victims.

Funeral grant top-up
The first initiative provides an additional amount of up to $4,570.08 to families of homicide victims to help pay for costs associated with their family member's funeral. This additional amount is on top of the $5,429.92 that these families can currently claim from ACC for funeral costs. This initiative began in November 2009 and is administered by a subsidiary of ACC on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.

Assistance to attend High Court
The second initiative provides financial assistance to support families of homicide victims to attend High Court proceedings. The grant supports up to five adult family members of a homicide victim to attend High Court proceedings involving the alleged offender at a rate of $124 per day, per person. This initiative began in January 2010 and is administered by the Victim Support service.

Homicide support service

The third initiative establishes a homicide support service. This service provides practical and emotional support to families of homicide victims throughout the criminal justice process. The service began in July 2010 and will be managed by Victim Support.

Increase in discretionary grant
The fourth initiative increases the 'discretionary grant for families of homicide victims suffering financial difficulties' from $1,500 to $5,000. The eligibility criteria for the grant was also expanded. Victim Support continues to administer the grant and the funding increase began in November 2009.

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