All unexpected, sudden or suspicious deaths are meant to be reported to police and a decision about whether a crime has been committed will be made by them. Police have primary discretion as to when to charge. Please see Crimes Act NSW 1900 for the range of crimes and components of each crime.
If the killing is deemed to be intentional – a charge of murder may be laid. If the killing was not intentional, for example accidental or showing reckless indifference to the foreseeable outcome – so in other words, avoidable, a charge of manslaughter can be laid. Charges can be changed over time as the case unfolds. As in all crimes, the system operates to preserve the rights of the accused, not of the victim or the victim’s family.
Not all homicide is unlawful; killing in self-defense, for example, is not a crime, but a person can nevertheless be charged and the outcome left to a court.
VOCAL Inc NSW began as a homicide support group in 1989 before becoming multi-crime responsive in 1994. Some family members after homicide will qualify as ‘eligible family members’ under Victims legislation.
VOCAL’s support to family victims and others can include:
- Someone to talk to
- Managing the media
- Issues around the funeral
- Coroner’s case
- Liaising with Victims Services
- Referrals to other agencies
- Crime scene clean-up issues
- Legal issues – helping victims think through issues (estate, wills, property, funeral costs, compensation)
- Financial implications (Centrelink, taxation – etc.)
- Inability to work
- The children
- Family dynamics, relationship impacts
- Grieving processes and individual differences
- Guidance through the many systems that may apply – and the issues they can create – police, counselling, compensation, bureaucracies, courts, mental health, legal system, Victims Impacts, sentencing, parole, Restorative Justice etc.