Raise the status of the family
- Use an independent advocate to help the family.
- Make early contact with families reasonably soon after the homicide and acknowledge the loss. Introduce the review. How well you do this is likely to impact the extent of family engagement with the review. Check with the Police SIO before approaching the family.
- Consider making contact either directly or via an advocate that the family are familiar with and trust. The advocate may advise if early contact is appropriate.
- Give the family the opportunity to understand and influence the scope of the review including the Terms of Reference.
- Don’t merge review types, for example, Domestic Homicide Reviews and Mental Health Enquiries, without first speaking with the family to explain the rationale and to seek their opinion (See Paragraph 23 of the Domestic Homicide Review Statutory Guidance).
Value their contribution
- Not having the victim’s perspective is empirically unsound (Monckton Smith, Williams, Mullane, 2014).
- Put yourself in the family’s shoes. How would you expect to be treated? Listen actively and demonstrate compassion, respect and sensitivity.
- Allow plenty of time and give space for silence.
- Allow for their first hand contribution to the review. See this excellent contribution. Starts at page 16.
- Invite the family to address the DHR Panel.
- Offer the family different ways of contributing. Some may prefer face to face, some via MSN / Skype etc, or both.
- Share review documents. Consider sharing the inputs to the review with the family as the review is ongoing. For example, the Individual Management Reviews (IMRs). The family’s comments on these can help to ensure that the inputs to the review are accurate. The Overview Report should contain everything of importance from the IMRs so this does not feel like a radical step.
- Acknowledge where information is not readily available and show a willingness to unearth it (Mason 2009, to Pemberton Review).
- Allow the family adequate space and time to read the draft report. Please do not assume you can sit opposite them while they are reading this. They may need time to digest the contents and may seek the help of a specialist advocate.
Excellent communication and regular updates
- Update the family regularly. Each month is a good yardstick but discuss specifics with the family in the same way you would discuss expectations with your manager. Let the family know if you will miss a deadline.
- Take care to ensure your communications are timely, straightforward, courteous and helpful. Don’t stop communicating if there is no news.
Deliver on commitments
- Not doing this can be seen as disingenuous and adversely affect relationships (Mason 2009, to Pemberton Review).