Bereavement due to traumatic death

The Probation Victim Contact Scheme

If someone is convicted of murder or manslaughter a victim liaison officer should contact the bereaved relatives within eight weeks of the offender being sentenced.

The Probation Victim Contact Scheme:
  1. Updates the relatives at key stages during the offender’s sentence
  2. Tells them when the offender is likely to be released
  3. Gives bereaved relatives an opportunity to express their views if the offender is being considered for release. They may be able to attend the parole hearing to present their Victims Personal Statement
  4. Informs them of the likely supervision arrangements after offender's release
  5. Enables them to comment on the offender’s conditions of release - for example, whether the offender should be barred from contacting the family or entering a particular area.  
Some people we talked to had experience of the scheme and had met the victim liaison officer. Marcus has written to the Parole Board every year explaining why he believes that the man who killed his fiancée, Louise, should not be allowed out of prison. David wrote to the Parole Board too when the men who killed his son were eligible for parole.

David was sure that the offenders would kill again so he wrote to the Parole Board suggesting...

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Age at interview: 55
Sex: Male
So did the police give you the opportunity of you making your point of view about whether or not they should have parole or not. Were you allowed to make any comments?
Yes we could, yes we could do as much representative work as we wanted to, but I wrote no end of letters to the Parole Board, but at the end of the day they just don’t listen anyway.
No. They don’t…
You are given the opportunity to write to the Parole Board?
Well you can, you can, which I did, I wrote many, many letters, but it didn’t make no difference, they’ve got, I think on one occasion I think they didn’t grant parole maybe as a result of my letters I did, but the next time he got it so.
So what were you mainly saying in your letters?
The fact about his previous reputation, even the police turned round to us and said that when he comes out of prison he’ll do it again.
And that was like the basis of, well one of them anyway.
You were recommending that they wouldn’t be let out for another few years.
That’s right, that’s right. 
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Carole and her husband decided that they want only a yearly update about the woman who killed...

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Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
And as I say she was found guilty of murder, it’s not life imprisonment I think after nine years she can appeal, she’d already spent almost two years in prison. She did have a daughter who I think the grandparents took care of her. That was one of the sad things… and apparently she had written to us, but we don’t want to receive a letter from her.
From the, the woman who’s in prison?
Yes. I never wish to see it.
Who told you there was a letter, the police?
The probation officer, the probation in this city are in contact with us, she’s a very nice lady, and we can have as much contact or as little and we decided that just a yearly update [would be good] and we are written to, and then this time we had a phone call. She said, “I’d like to just touch base” as it were.
From this officer, this lady?
Yes, probation here, they speak to those who are in contact with the prison. 

Adam and his parents receive updates from the victim liaison officer. They are content to know...

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Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
Does the family have any contact with the people who are in prison now? I mean not direct contact, but do you get reports from the probation service?
Yes, we have got a probation officer that keeps in touch with us every now and then, and they just let us know what is happening. Obviously we’re not allowed to know where they are, but they’ll let us know if somebody has applied for an appeal or they’ll let us know when their time is up, they’ll let us know when they’re coming up for probation and if they succeed in probation.
Does your family appreciate this contact with the probation service, knowing what’s going on, or would they rather just not know?
No, they do like updates from them to make sure, you know, just to see what’s going on, because anything could happen otherwise, I mean they could be out by now, or something like that, you know, anything could’ve happened, but you know it’s good to know so that we can appeal against their appeal if they, you know, if we feel it needs to be fought or whatever. We can do something about it.
Have the people in prison ever sent you a message or apologised?
Yes, one of them, the main guy that used the sign [the murder weapon], he wrote a letter to my Mum and his defence barrister came up and said, “Oh my client has written you a letter, would you like it?” And this was the guy that had a smirk on his face all the way through and swaggered out through the dock when he’d been sentenced, and you thought well, you’d know for sure that somebody else has written it, or they’ve at least told him what to write, and it’s in his own handwriting. You know there’s no way that somebody like that would ever feel guilt or feel sorry about what he’d done. Sick, sick person.
Did your mother want to look at it?
No, Mum, Mum, yes my Mum couldn’t care less, you know they did what they did, so they take the consequences. You know as far as we’re concerned what they got was not half enough. You know they should have got ten times more. And life should mean life for anybody that puts a family or anybody through that sort of grief, you know that’s changed the rest of our lives, that’s changed the life of everybody in our family and it’s changed friends' lives, it’s obviously extinguished Lloyd's life, and these people will be out when they’re 30. Life should mean life, so they should be you know locked up for life because they’ve ruined everybody else’s. Not just the one they’ve taken.
Ann has also been kept informed about what is happening to the men who killed her son. The man who started the incident at the cash machine and who was convicted of manslaughter was due to be released in March 2009. Ann was upset because she thinks his sentence was too lenient and because he did not have to go before a Parole Board, so she had no opportunity to make her views known. In a few years the other offender, who was found guilty of murder and given a life sentence, will probably be eligible for parole, and when the Parole Board considers his case Ann will be able to make a fresh Victim Personal Statement but she does not think that her views will have much impact.
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A victim liaison officer keeps Ann informed if one of the offenders comes up for parole. She...

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Age at interview: 57
Sex: Male
So this, this person from the parole office, what did you call him?
He is a Victim Liaison Officer from Probation.
Did he come here?
Yes he came here,
What did he tell you?
Well he basically explained what would be happening throughout, you know, the period that both of them would serve their sentences, that anything, any appeals that would be happening he would notify; the progress basically of their, their sentencing would be advised. I would be kept informed of that. But in terms, in terms of what that gives us, or what that gives a family, if there’s no parole process it’s given me nothing really, in except another piece of frustration.
In terms of the other one who might come before a parole board, presumably you could say something that might affect his parole? Could you?
Well, when his parole comes up, which is probably another thirteen and a bit years now, he will be entitled to have a solicitor at that parole hearing. What will I have? I will have the ability to probably make a fresh Impact Statement to what it means, but as a logical person if our feelings aren’t taken into account throughout the court process, if my son’s life has very little input to that process other than the facts, then by the mere fact that that’s the situation during the trial, the parole process will not give me a stronger position, it will be a weaker position in fact, the whole of that parole process will on the balance of probabilities be about once again that perpetrator, it will be saying, “Is this person fit to go back into society?”. Now from the family’s point of view, whatever, I’m allowed to say at that point, I doubt it will have a huge amount of impact on that, rightly or wrongly.
Do you like to know what’s happening to them while they are in prison?
Yes, I’ve elected to know what is going on, as much as I’m allowed to know. I honestly felt that 15 years isn’t enough for someone that’s had a history of violence. 
Julie didn't want to know what was happening to the man convicted of killing her sister.
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Julie and the other family members felt that the Victim Liaison Officer was trying to 'push’ them...

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Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
I think one of the hardest things for us though was, I can’t remember what they’re called, they’ve, they’re to do with prison system service, they actually got in touch with my mum and wanted to go and see her. So I went down at the same time. And they wanted us to know, to say, do we want to know what he were doing out, how he was doing and things like that. And we just said to them, “What do we want to know for? Just let us know if he’s dead.”
That’s, I know that sounds really awful and it shouldn’t do. But that’s… we didn’t want to know what courses he was doing.
You know. And I just that was really, really a difficult time. It was like they were trying to push us to be there for him through his rehabilitation. So they write to us once a year to let us know that he’s, that he’s not done anything he shouldn’t have done.
People do not always welcome contact with a Victim Liaison Officer. After Terri’s son was murdered she received letters every year from the Probation Service. She said that she didn't really like getting the letters and she didn't want to know what the offender was doing in prison, but she mistakenly thought that the liaison officer had to send the letters.
Family members' views may differ. David wanted to know every detail about what was happening to the offenders in prison, but his wife did not.
People’s involvement in the Probation Victim Contact Scheme is entirely voluntary and people can change their minds about having contact with a victim liaison officer at any point in the offender’s sentence.

Last reviewed October 2015.

Last updated October 2011.

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