Witnesses to killings to be offered support nationwide for first time

Services offered to bereaved families after an atrocity will now be available for witnesses and children from the wider community.

Nina Lloyd
Monday 29 May 2023 00:22 BST
The Homicide Service commissions support including trauma and bereavement counselling, restorative justice and advocacy (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)
The Homicide Service commissions support including trauma and bereavement counselling, restorative justice and advocacy (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Witnesses to atrocities such as the Manchester Arena bombing will be offered similar support to bereaved families nationwide for the first time after an expansion of homicide services.

The broadening of eligibility for the help given to grief-stricken relatives in the aftermath of a major crime will also include children from the wider community, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

The expansion will be backed by approximately £600,000 in funding, which comes from existing budgets and will be added to the £4.6 million previously allocated to the Homicide Service.

The Homicide Service commissions support including trauma and bereavement counselling, restorative justice and advocacy.

Expanding it to include support for direct eyewitnesses to homicide or a major criminal incident where a person is killed, alongside enhanced support for children and young people, is a brilliant step

Ellen Milazzo, National Homicide Service at Victim Support

Opposition MPs criticised the scope of the measures and called on the Government to improve legal representation offered to those affected by tragedies such as the Hillsborough disaster, in which 97 people were found to have been unlawfully killed decades after the event.

Grief-stricken families are meant to be offered support from the Homicide Service by police following a murder or other crime which results in death.

The eligibility changes mean that anyone who directly witnesses such an incident and any child or young person who knows the victim can also be referred.

The MoJ gave the examples of a pupil in the class of a teacher who has been killed or a member of a place of worship which loses a religious leader.

Tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower fire and the Manchester Arena bombing are among those that would be included, according to the department.

Previously the service offered support only to those bereaved through murder or manslaughter but it will now be available to people affected by other major incidents, it said.

The rollout of the expansion across England and Wales follows a successful pilot in London and will mean approximately 1,200 more people will be offered support, it said.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said: “By expanding the service to include eyewitnesses and bereaved families of major incidents across England and Wales, thousands more people will be able to access the support they need as early as possible.”

Ellen Milazzo, head of the National Homicide Service at Victim Support, said: “We set up the service in 2010 and it has gone from strength to strength ever since.

Victims have been left out to dry under this Conservative Government

Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed

“Expanding it to include support for direct eyewitnesses to homicide or a major criminal incident where a person is killed, alongside enhanced support for children and young people, is a brilliant step.”

Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed said: “Victims have been left out to dry under this Conservative Government.

“Labour stands unequivocally with the families and survivors of Hillsborough, Grenfell and Manchester. We must do everything within our power to prevent tragedies like this ever happening again.

“Victims have repeatedly called for the Hillsborough Law, to ensure that victims of major tragedies get the same legal representation as the authorities that failed them. The Government has failed to provide this parity, only Labour will deliver it.”

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