Investigation

Working with victims and witnesses

A witness is considered as a person, other than a defendant, who is likely to give evidence in court. All victims are also witnesses and should be treated as such.

The success of any investigation depends largely on the accuracy and detail of the material obtained from witnesses. Investigators, whether tasked with a volume crime or major investigation, must recognise the individual needs and concerns of witnesses and treat them with dignity and respect. This can have a significant impact on how witnesses cooperate with the investigation and any subsequent prosecution.

National support for law enforcement agencies

Call the NCA Specialist Operations Centre on 0845 000 5463 and speak with an officer for advice and support regarding vulnerable and intimidated witnesses.

Formal definitions

Victim

Black’s Law dictionary, ninth edition (2009) defines a victim as ‘a person harmed by a crime, tort or other wrong’.

Witness

Black’s Law dictionary defines a witness as ‘one who sees, knows or vouches for something. One who gives testimony under oath or affirmation, in person, by oral or written deposition or by affidavit’. A witness must be legally competent to testify.

Significant witness

According to Ministry of Justice (2011) Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures, significant witnesses, sometimes referred to as ‘key’ witnesses, are those who:

  • have or claim to have witnessed, visually or otherwise, an indictable offence, part of such an offence or events closely connected with it (including any incriminating comments made by the suspected offender either before or after the offence) and/or
  • have a particular relationship to the victim or have a central position in an investigation into an indictable offence.

While significant witnesses are usually defined with reference to indictable-only offences, investigating officers may consider designating witnesses as significant in any other serious case where it might be helpful.

A police officer who has witnessed murder, manslaughter, road death, serious physical assault, sexual assault, kidnap, robberies in which firearms are involved or any criminal attempts or conspiracies in relation to these offences should also be considered a significant witness.

Vulnerable or intimidated witness

The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (YJCE) allows special measures for certain groups of witnesses who may be vulnerable or intimidated.

Section 16

Section 16 allows special measures for witnesses who are under 18 years of age or in circumstances where the court considers their evidence may be diminished due to that witness experiencing mental ill health, a significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning or where the witness has a physical disability or is suffering from a physical disorder.

Section 17

Section 17 allows special measures to be provided on grounds of fear or distress about testifying.

Special measures

These include the use of video-recorded interviews as evidence-in-chief. They are also eligible to use communication aids, such as computer-aided speech programs and symbols on boards or in books, where necessary.

Witness management in an investigation

Investigators should consider Ministry of Justice (2015) Code of Practice for Victims of Crime when setting the victim and witness strategy.

Three interdependent strategies make up the victim and witness strategy in an investigation:

Investigators should also consider the provision of information to victims and witnesses.

Witness identification strategy

The detection of a large proportion of offences can be attributed to information, intelligence and evidence provided by the public. It is important that investigators recognise this and take action to identify and locate witnesses at the earliest available opportunity.

Identifying and locating witnesses

Some witnesses may self-present or be self-evident, whereas other witnesses may be more difficult to identify and/or locate. Investigating officers must, therefore, develop clear intelligence-led objectives for identifying witnesses. These will depend on the circumstances of the case but should include identifying settings and communities where witnesses are likely to be found. Communities may be cultural, religious, sporting, occupational, clubs, associations or societies. Resources can then be directed towards identifying witnesses.

Methods for identifying and locating witnesses:

  • viewing CCTV
  • media appeals
  • house-to-house enquiries
  • interviews with victims and other witnesses
  • suspect interviews
  • financial investigation
  • open-source internet search tools
  • social media
  • anniversary appeals.

Initial contact strategy

The manner in which investigators approach witnesses, from the point of initial contact, during interviews and through to the conclusion of any subsequent prosecution case, can have a significant bearing on their perceptions of how the criminal justice system operates. Inappropriate or ill-considered methods of dealing with a witness may hamper the investigation and delay or prevent the supply of relevant material to the investigator.

Investigating officers should set objectives to ensure that the members of the enquiry team, and any other police staff who could have initial contact with witnesses, understand the action expected of them when they encounter a potential witness.

Rewards

If a reward for information has been made public, it should not be highlighted to any potential witness who comes forward. There is a risk that this could be considered an inducement to provide information. Where a witness asks an unsolicited question about a reward, a record should be made of it and the possibility of a subsequent challenge to the integrity of the witness taken into account as part of the overall investigative strategy.

Witness as a scene

In cases of physical or sexual assault, the investigator has an early opportunity to obtain forensic material from the victim or their clothing, and potentially other witnesses. This material may include body fluids or other cellular or fibre transfers. Early evidence kits ensure opportunities to capture forensic evidence are maximised in investigations into sexual offences.

In such cases, the investigator must balance the victim’s medical and welfare needs with the recovery of uncontaminated material for the investigation. The victim may not recognise or understand the significance of the requests for this material.

Support for investigators

Assistance from specially trained officers (STOs) and using specialist centres, where available, enable the investigator to recover material, while ensuring that victims receive appropriate support and counselling.

If a specialist officer is deployed to assist an investigator, an accurate record must be maintained on the crime report, policy log or file outlining the specific role of the specialist officer. The investigator and the specialist officer need to maintain close contact. This can be achieved by regular meetings to brief and debrief each other.

Fast-track witness interviews

There may be occasions when it is necessary to conduct a fast-track interview with a witness in order to rapidly progress the investigation.

Potential outcomes
  • the early identification or arrest of a suspect
  • the recovery of material connected with the offence
  • prevention of the imminent disposal or destruction of material connected with the investigation
  • prevention of the commission of other offences.

Fast-track interviews can also help with the overall witness interview strategy in terms of categorising witnesses as vulnerable, intimidated or significant, and prioritising formal interviews.

Approach

By adopting a calm, reassuring interview style, investigators can establish the main points of what witnesses know about the incident.

The witness may require medical attention or the presence of a suitable adult and the investigator needs to address this. Common sense has to be applied and the interview should be limited to obtaining sufficient information to progress the enquiry. The circumstances surrounding the fast-track interview should be recorded, and if the witness is receiving non urgent attention, permission should be obtained from medical staff.

Suitable care and support can then be provided prior to an in-depth interview.

Initial risk assessment

Risk assessment begins the moment that the circumstances of the crime are notified to the police and must continue throughout the investigation. The potential risks should be established and decisions made on how to minimise and manage them. Some of the early risk assessment can be conducted through call taker actions.

The information provided to the call taker can be passed to the initial investigators so that they are fully informed and can continue assessing risk on arrival at the scene.

Potential risks:

  • the physical health and welfare of the victim or other witnesses
  • the suspect(s), who may still be present or in the vicinity and posing a threat
  • forensic or other relevant material which may be disposed of, destroyed or damaged
  • risk to other potential victims or witnesses caused by the commission of further offences.

Managing risks

Having identified the potential risks, investigators then have to manage them. In the early stages of the investigation, this may include providing first aid or access to medical treatment, security and protection. The initial management of these risks depends on the scale and complexity of the investigation. In simple cases, these risks will be managed by a single officer.

Call taker actions:

  • prioritise the safety of the victim and any other witnesses
  • keep the victim fully updated of the deployment of officers
  • if the suspect is still present at the scene, keep the caller on the line as this is a means of monitoring the incident and any background noise will automatically be recorded and can be used as evidence
  • if the suspect has left the scene, advise the caller to lock and secure the premises and to return to the telephone. Obtain a full description of the suspect and circulate it to officers in the area.

Witness interviews

Interviews are a means by which an investigator can both obtain and impart information. Many witnesses fear the consequences of providing information. They, therefore, need to be confident that the investigator will deal with the information they provide appropriately. If the investigator establishes trust with the interviewee beforehand, they are more likely to give a full and accurate account. Witnesses have a right to expect that they will be listened to and will receive fair treatment. It is the information provided by witnesses and victims that enables a suspect’s version of events to be validated or challenged.

Witnesses should be interviewed in accordance with the PEACE model.

Witness assessment

The investigator is required to make an initial assessment of the witness prior to conducting an interview. This assessment is necessary determine whether the category of vulnerable or intimidated witness applies.

Achieving best evidence

Ministry of Justice (2011) Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures provides advice on conducting a witness assessment, which should include their:

  • availability to attend court
  • need for specific assistance
  • need for support as a vulnerable or intimidated witness.

In addition, the assessment should include details of any information provided to the witness under local agreements.

Witness interview strategy

This should be developed at an early stage in the investigation. An interview adviser can assist in developing a witness interview strategy, which should be proportionate to the crime.

Elements of the strategy

  • Setting objectives – these should be meaningful and realistic, particularity in the case of vulnerable, intimidated and significant witnesses.
  • Selecting interviewers – staff selected should be competent to the appropriate tier.
  • Briefing interviewers – they should be informed of their roles as soon as possible and given time to plan and prepare.
  • Supporting the interview.
  • Debriefing the interviews – if required, they should be debriefed to establish the information obtained, how the account fits in with other available material, whether any action needs to be taken and what further enquiries are necessary.
  • Supplementary interviews – these should only take place when they are essential for the purpose of eliciting additional information or clarifying contradictory information of significance to the investigation. Consideration should be given to whether holding such an interview would be in the witness’s best interest, and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should be consulted where appropriate. The reason for conducting supplementary interviews should be recorded.

Video of witness interview

Video-recording key or significant witness interviews should be considered in cases of:

  • murder
  • manslaughter
  • road death
  • serious physical assault
  • sexual assault
  • kidnap
  • robberies in which firearms are involved
  • any criminal attempts or conspiracies in relation to the above listed offences.

Welfare issues

Investigators tasked with interviewing a witness should consider the welfare needs of the witness throughout.

Factors to consider:

  • age and mental capacity of the witness (legal requirements dictate how material can be obtained from individuals)
  • the emotional health and welfare of the witness
  • the language skills of the witness (interpreters should be used in accordance with local guidelines)
  • whether a witness intermediary is required through the witness intermediary scheme
  • how to prevent further offences from occurring, such as witness intimidation.

Third-party support may be beneficial to some witnesses, provided that the support is unconnected with the investigation.

Witness intermediary scheme

All witnesses considered to be vulnerable can obtain help from an intermediary. An intermediary can be appointed at any stage (but preferably before the interview) if it becomes apparent that there is a communication issue, and appointing one will make the difference between a vulnerable witness giving their best evidence, or not communicating at all.

An intermediary is likely to improve the quality of the witness’s evidence, and should be considered if the witness appears unlikely to be able to recognise a problematic question or, even if able to do so, may be reluctant to say so to a questioner in a position of authority.

Intermediaries can provide advice to investigators to help achieve more productive interviews, including:

  • how a witness communicates
  • their level of understanding
  • how it would be best to question them to get the best evidence
  • types of questions to avoid
  • how long the witness will need to answer a question.

They are impartial, and can help a witness to understand the questions they are asked and can communicate the witness’s responses, if required.

The scheme provides access to registered intermediaries. It offers:

  • access to the national vulnerable witness and intermediary adviser
  • a matching service to find the best intermediary for a witness.

It can be accessed via the NCA Specialist Operations Centre.

Witness intimidation

Ministry of Justice (2011) Vulnerable and Intimidated Witnesses A Police Service Guide considers witness intimidation and the potential responses to it. Early identification of actual or potential intimidation means that witnesses can be offered a service tailored to their requirements, making it more likely that they will give evidence in court.

The table below lists a number of situations and potential actions to consider.Table showing categories of witness intimidation.

Whatever action is taken, officers should be careful to avoid any suggestion that inducements have been offered in return for the witness’s testimony.

Witness protection

Where there are fears that a witness may be intimidated, investigators, working in conjunction with the CPS, can develop a witness care strategy designed to protect the witness from intimidation or harassment. This can include protecting the identity of the witness during the investigation, the early stages of the prosecution process and, in certain exceptional circumstances, through the trial itself.

Local measures

There are a number of local measures which investigators can employ to improve security and provide protection. These include:

  • providing a ‘Homelink’ alarm system
  • upgrading security at the home address
  • temporary relocation
  • entries on briefing and intelligence systems.

Investigators can obtain assistance with these interim measures from local crime reduction advisers and neighbourhood policing teams. Some local authorities also provide access to resources to deal with witness protection issues.

Reluctant witnesses

These are people who are believed to have witnessed an offence, part of an offence or events closely connected with it, but are reluctant to become involved in the investigative process. Initial actions should try to establish the reasons for the witness’s reluctance so that attempts to address the issue can be made.

Reasons for reluctance:

  • adverse perceptions of the police or criminal justice process
  • fear of an alleged perpetrator
  • concern about the response from the community where they live
  • worries about their identity being released
  • uncertainty about the process.

Reluctant witnesses should be given an outline of the offence(s) being investigated. The specific details of the allegation, or particulars about what the witness may have seen, should not be discussed. In addition, no pressure should be applied to encourage the witness to talk to the police or to give evidence. The function of the investigator in these circumstances is simply to provide enough information to allow the potential witness to decide whether to assist or not. Records should be kept of any contact and anything said.

The investigator should liaise with the CPS once they are aware that the witness is reluctant to attend court to give evidence, as the prosecutor may be able to apply for a witness summons to secure their attendance.

Hostile witnesses

These are people believed to have witnessed an offence, part of an offence or events closely connected with it, but who are opposed to the investigative process and/or biased against the examining party. The reasons for their opposition might include their lifestyle or they may have a close relationship with the alleged perpetrator and intend to appear in court as a defence witness.

Some of these witnesses may simply refuse to cooperate with the police, others might provide false information intended to support the alleged perpetrator’s account.

Records must be kept of all interactions with hostile witnesses, regardless of the reason for their hostility and the extent of their cooperation. Where hostile witnesses consent to an interview, it should be video-recorded, unless they object to this.

Witness refusal to make a statement

Investigators should bring to the attention of the CPS details of any witnesses who have been interviewed but have refused to make a statement.

The investigator should outline the details of the material the witness has provided and copies of any notes made or statements compiled which the witness has refused to sign. The investigator should also provide the CPS with all the information provided by the witness which may account for their refusal to provide a statement. This may become crucial if the witness is later called as a defence witness.

Information to victims/witnesses

In the majority of cases, investigators can support witnesses by providing them with relevant information about the progress of the investigation and of any significant developments throughout the investigation. Witnesses should always be provided with the following details:

  • the name of the investigating officer
  • contact details for the investigating officer
  • crime or incident reference number.

When a suspect is identified or arrested, the witness should be informed and kept up to date about court appearances, and whether the suspect has been remanded in custody or is out on bail. If the suspect is out on bail, the witness should be made aware of any conditions that are imposed on the suspect.

Victim and witness support

Investigators must recognise the impact that being a witness to a crime or event can have on an individual. They may feel shocked, traumatised, vulnerable or intimidated by the experience. Invariably, all witnesses will require a degree of help from sources of support during any investigation.

Adopting a calm, reassuring approach and providing information about organisations that give support can assist in alleviating the witness’s anxiety and fears. As the case progresses, the witness may receive additional help and support from the Witness Service (which includes Victim Support). This is run by volunteers and offers:

  • information on what takes place at court
  • emotional support and confidential advice
  • a familiarisation visit to the court
  • court room support for the witness.

Police officers who are witnesses are not immune to similar fears and anxieties, especially when they have witnessed traumatic or unusual events. Force welfare departments can provide advice and guidance to officers in these circumstances.

The victim personal statement can be used to inform the prosecution about the impact of the offence on the victim’s life.

Sources of support

In some circumstances, this support may be provided by verbal reassurances from a named investigator, family members or close friends.

In more serious investigations, support may also be provided by deploying specially trained officers, such as a:

  • family liaison officer (FLO)
  • sexual offence liaison officer/specially trained officer
  • domestic violence officer and/or coordinator
  • neighbourhood policing officer and/or police community support officer.

There are also a number of organisations that provide valuable services to witnesses, including:

Victim Support schemes – including the witness servicevictim focus scheme and victim support homicide service.

  •  sexual assault referral centres
  • social services
  • health service
  • race equality councils
  • gay and lesbian support groups
  • religious organisations or groups
  • child victims of crime.

Victim personal statement

The purpose of the victim personal statement scheme is to:

  • provide a means by which a victim may make known their legitimate interests, such as
    • their wish to receive information about the progress of the case
    • to express their concerns about intimidation and of the alleged offender being granted bail
    • their wish to seek compensation or to request referral to Victim Support or other help agencies
  • give victims the chance to tell the criminal justice agencies and services dealing with their cases how the crimes have affected them physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially, or in any other way
  • provide the criminal justice agencies with a ready source of information on how the particular crime has affected the victim’s life, supplementing other sources of information, for example, the MG19 regarding Compensation, or the confidential information form MG6.

Witness anonymity

The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 covers persons for whom anonymity is needed to protect their safety (including where intimidation is feared) or the safety of others, or to prevent serious damage to property, or in order to prevent real harm to public interest. It re-enacts the provisions of the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act 2008.

The Act allows the courts to continue to grant anonymity to witnesses (where this is consistent with a defendant’s right to a fair trial and where certain conditions are met) through witness anonymity orders (WAOs). Further information is provided in CPS (2009) The Director’s Guidance on Witness Anonymity.

It also allows the courts to grant investigation anonymity orders (IAOs) to persons from the early stages of the criminal justice process (where certain conditions are met).

IAOs and WAOs serve different purposes at different stages of the criminal justice process.

Investigation anonymity orders

Encouraging potential witnesses to come forward and provide a statement with a view to giving evidence at trial is widely acknowledged to be one of the most difficult aspects of successfully prosecuting crimes of murder/manslaughter, particularly where guns or knives have been used.

IAOs can be used during an investigation of a gang-related death caused by a gun or knife where potential witnesses are actively being sought. These orders are designed to reassure witnesses that their identity will be protected during and after the investigation.

Family liaison

Family liaison is one of the most important considerations throughout the investigation of a death or serious risk to life.

It can be used across a broad spectrum of policing, eg:

  • an unexplained or violent death homicide, road death, mass fatality
  • any other critical incident, or where family liaison might enhance the effectiveness of the police response, for example, a missing person enquiry or allegation of hate crime.

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (1994)

Modern delivery of family liaison is based on the recommendations of The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.

Recommendations from the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

Aims

The aims of family liaison in general are to:

  • work with the family in order to investigate the murder or death of a loved one
  • analyse the needs, concerns and expectations of the family in order to identify all the relevant and realistic action that should be taken in the context of their human rights and the police professional obligations.

Objectives arising from these aims should be central to the family liaison strategy.

The following extract demonstrates the importance of communication between families and the police:

The relationship between the police and the communities that they serve is rarely more important than in times of crisis. Families and communities look to lead agencies to respond appropriately. A solid professional partnership between family and police is to everybody’s advantage. After all, the police have travelled down the same road many times before and have a fair idea of what is ahead. Most families have never been this way before, the very least they should have is a guide.

McGarry, D and Smith, K (2011) Police Family Liaison. Oxford: Oxford Press

Objectives

There are three main objectives that should be central to a family liaison strategy:

  • gather material from the family (and conduct victimology) in a manner that contributes to the investigation and preserves its integrity.
  • provide information to, and facilitate care and support for, the family, who are themselves victims, in a sensitive and compassionate manner in accordance with the needs of the investigation.
  • build the confidence and trust of the family, thereby enhancing their contribution to the investigation.

In addition, objectives may relate to the potential impact the media may have on the family and the investigation.

Victimology

This refers to lifestyle information about the victim. It is usually one of the highest priority actions and will include information relating to:

  • behaviours, eg, outgoing, shy, punctual
  • routines
  • friends and associates
  • leisure interests
  • places frequented
  • finances.

The advantage of lifestyle information in the early stages of an investigation is that it can open up lines of enquiry that might not have been immediately apparent.

Family liaison strategy

The senior investigating officer (SIO) and/or senior identification manager (SIM) are responsible for setting the family liaison strategy (including its development, implementation and maintenance). They must consider both the needs of the family and the FLO when setting the strategy.

The strategy takes into account a number of important factors, namely:

  • identifying the family
  • strategic objectives
  • risk assessment
  • selection and deployment
  • supporting and supervising the FLO
  • communication with the family
  • the family and the media
  • exit strategy.

To support a successful family liaison deployment, the SIO must ensure that the objectives and the planned exit point are clearly communicated to the FLO. The objectives must be specific as they form the basis for tasking the FLO.

Exit strategy

The SIO and/or SIM should ensure that FLOs remain focused on achieving the strategic objectives set for them. It is only when these objectives are met that the FLO will exit from the deployment.

In line with managing expectations, it is essential that the FLO explains their role to the family when they first meet them, so that the family fully understands the point at which the FLO will exit. This should be done in a caring and considerate manner. Face-to-face discussions, which may include the SIO/SIM to explain the next steps, are often the most appropriate way forward.

In cases where the objectives mean that it is necessary to maintain contact with a family over a long period of time, consideration should be given to replacing the original FLO(s).

Family liaison structure

Senior investigating officer/senior identification manager

The following all form part of the SIO and/or SIM duties:

  • setting the family liaison strategy
  • selecting and deploying the most suitable FLOs (in conjunction with the family liaison coordinator (FLC))
  • taking responsibility for risk assessments and fulfilling duty of care to officers performing the FLO role and others affected by it
  • briefing, supporting and supervising the FLO
  • determining what information directly linked to the investigation can be passed to the family
  • setting objectives for family liaison interviews (and the family liaison interview strategy if required)
  • interviews with significant witnesses
  • direct and indirect communication with the family (including in cases of estrangement)
  • independent advisory groups (IAGs)
  • working with representatives of the family
  • the family and the media
  • exit strategy
  • suspects within the family
  • defendant’s family
  • record keeping.
Cases of estrangement

Difficulties can arise when the deceased may have been estranged from the family or individual family members, and may have had relationships that some members were unaware of. A decision may be taken to deploy additional FLOs to different sections of the family/ family members.

Family liaison coordinator

The FLC provides strategic support to the SIO and tactical support to the FLO. They also have specific administrative functions, including the maintenance of a register of trained FLOs, detailing lifestyle, ethnic and cultural origins, enhanced skills, experience and availability.

The FLC should formally meet all the FLOs at least twice a year. The FLC may also arrange for FLOs to get together on an informal basis in order to share experience. These meetings provide an opportunity to impart good practice, discuss new legislation and give additional training inputs.

Family liaison coordinator responsibilities

These include:

  • providing support to the SIO/SIM regarding skills and suitability for deployment of a particular FLO
  • assisting the SIO/SIM when they require advice and assistance in complex cases where there are multiple deployments of FLOs, and in coordinating the material that comes from them
  • acting as a support point for FLOs
  • providing advice to FLOs
  • maintaining a register or contact details of appropriate organisations, lay people and professional consultants to assist FLOs
  • acting as a channel for welfare, occupational health and support
  • acting as an independent channel for FLO debriefing to identify and disseminate good practice
  • liaising regionally to share and gather good practice for implementation within own force area
  • providing a networking point for FLOs requiring advice from other FLOs who have experience in dealing with particular scenarios
  • promoting and facilitating mutual FLO peer group support
  • monitoring workloads and managing deployments and current availability of FLOs
  • monitoring mandatory attendance at the welfare or occupational health department.
Family liaison officer

The role of the FLO is primarily that of an investigator, to assist the SIO/SIM to achieve their aims and objectives. This includes the day-to-day management of the interaction with the family in the investigation and close liaison with the SIO/SIM to ensure families are treated appropriately, professionally and with respect for their needs. It may involve working in a range of different situations in demanding and often stressful conditions over sustained periods of time.

Officers must not attempt to assume the responsibility of personally counselling a victim’s family, whether or not they are qualified to do so. The FLO facilitates care and support by making the family aware of sources of support and by providing the appropriate bereavement pack (homicide/road death).

The FLO should discuss with the SIO/SIM an appropriate strategy for working with the victim’s family. The FLO‘s level of involvement and specific tasks allocated during the investigation are governed by this strategy. It is, therefore, essential that the FLO establishes the parameters of their role within the enquiry and is clear about the objectives they are seeking to meet, as set out in the SIO/SIM’s strategy.

The FLO should meet the family as soon as possible. They receive a briefing from the SIO/intelligence officer or FLC, and must be made aware of any risk assessment issues.

For the purposes of review, the FLO must make sure they update the risk assessment following initial contact with the family.

Family liaison officer attributes

The trauma associated with a sudden, unexpected tragedy places the family of the victim under immense personal pressures at a time when the needs of the investigation make heavy demands for detailed information.

Sensitivity, compassion and respect for the family’s needs and requirements must underpin the approach to gathering material.

The needs and requirements of the family must be identified from this stage onwards. The initial priority must be to establish communication with the family as soon as practicable in order to furnish them with any information that they require, in accordance with the needs of the investigation.

Family liaison officer activities

In all cases and prior to a meeting, the FLO must:

  • ensure that, before attending the family home, a risk assessment has been carried out
  •  discuss the risk assessment fully with the SIO
  • familiarise themselves with any available information and intelligence which could affect their liaison role, eg, impact assessment document, community tensions, previous police involvement with the victim and/or family members
  • establish the extent and nature of contact with the police since the time of the incident/death
  • establish the information that has been passed to the family, to whom and by whom
  • establish if any information concerning the incident is already in the public domain.

Page last accessed 18 November 2017