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Information for Bereaved Families and Friends Following Murder or Culpable Homicide

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Section 6 Practical issues

When a loved one dies suddenly, it can be difficult to cope with the practical matters you will need to address. This section covers some of those practical matters and gives details of agencies that you are likely to need to contact.

Victim Support Scotland offers practical support and can help people to deal with the various demands and pressures following a death. They can be contacted on 0131 668 4486 (national office) or the helplines on 0845 603 9213 or 0845 30 30 900. Calls are charged at the local rate.

6.1 How to register a death

Any death which occurs in Scotland should be registered within 8 days.

The death should be registered in either the district where it took place or the district of the deceased person's usual residence. You can get the address of the local registrar from the funeral director or telephone book (under 'Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages'). The funeral director or registrar will also be able to tell you what documents will be needed to register the death.

A burial can take place before registration but a cremation can only take place after the death has been registered.

6.2 Murders committed in other countries

If a close friend or relative dies abroad and you are in the UK

If a close friend or relative has been killed abroad, this creates extra difficulties. In these circumstances, the British Consul is there to help and guide you. Consul staff will pass the details to the police in the UK. If the person was murdered, or the death is unexplained or suspicious, you will be allocated a police Family Liaison Officer (see section 1.2) who will liaise with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This is the Government department, based in London, that deals with British interests abroad.

Consular staff in London will keep in touch with you and the Consulate abroad until burial or cremation overseas, or until your loved one has been brought back to the UK. They will let the Consulate overseas know your wishes concerning funeral arrangements and do their best to ensure these are carried out.

If the person who died was known to be suffering from an infectious condition, for example, the hepatitis or HIV viruses, you should tell Consular staff.

There may be a delay before you can bring the person home if there is an overseas inquest and post mortem. With very few exceptions, neither the police in Scotland nor the Procurator Fiscal ( PF) have any authority to investigate deaths abroad. The police in Scotland may be asked to carry out enquiries to assist the investigating police.

You should register the death according to the local regulations in the country concerned and obtain a death certificate. You may be able to register the death with the British Consul in that country for a fee. However, you are not obliged to do this.

If you do register the death with the British Consul, a record of the death will be sent to Scotland. You will then be able to get a copy from the General Register Office for Scotland. There may be a delay in obtaining this since details are returned from British Consuls at the end of each year and records amended in March/April of the following year.

If the death is registered only with the local authorities in the country where the person died, there will be no record held in the United Kingdom.

How can British Consuls help?

British Consuls can keep the next-of-kin informed. Their job is to ensure you do not feel you are on your own.

They can advise on the cost of local burial or cremation, and arrange for the return to the UK of the deceased person and their personal property. Consuls cannot pay or help with these expenses. You would need to check if costs could be covered by a travel insurance policy.

Consuls can provide a list of local funeral directors in the country where the death took place. If an English speaking firm is not available, Consulate staff will help you with the arrangements.

Where there is evidence of suspicious circumstances, they can press for an investigation by local authorities and pass on the results.

Bringing the person who has died back to the UK

If you decide to bring your loved one back from abroad, and wish a cremation to take place, you must make a cremation application to the Scottish Executive Health Department. You will be able to get advice on this from a funeral director.

If the death has been fully investigated abroad, the PF is unlikely to get involved. In most cases, there will be no need for further investigation by the PF. Where it is necessary, it may include a post mortem examination (see section 2.5) and this could affect the PF's decision to allow cremation.

Support services

Many countries have services like Victim Support which can provide help. Victim Support Scotland's National Office can help by contacting these for you if you wish. Their phone number is 0131 668 4486. Some countries also have their own state compensation schemes.

6.3 Claiming criminal injuries compensation

Eligibility and awards

If you are the relative or a dependant of someone who has died as a result of a criminal injury, you may be able to get compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. As indicated in section 2.7, you may also be able to claim for any funeral expenses incurred. You should keep any receipts and include them with your claim.

Different people qualify for different types of payment. Payments will depend on your relationship with the victim and whether you were financially dependent on them. If you were a witness to the crime, you may also qualify for a payment.

You will only be given compensation if you meet the requirements of the Scheme. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority ( CICA) may reduce or refuse an award on the grounds of your, or the victim's, conduct or convictions.

Information and application

Applications under the Scheme should normally be made within two years of the incident for which the claim is made. This time limit may be set aside in certain circumstances - for example, if there is a good reason for the delay and it is in the interests of justice.

You can obtain more details, along with an application form and details of the documents you need, by contacting the CICA on freephone 0800 358 3601. Alternatively, you can write to:

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
Tay House
300 Bath Street
Glasgow G2 4LN


Further information can also be found on their website at: http://www.cica.gov.uk

Your local Victim Support service can offer you help and information on making and completing an application under the Scheme. You can find the address of your local Victim Support service in the telephone book, or you can ring the national office on 0131 668 4486 or the helplines on 0845 603 9213 or 0845 30 30 900. Calls are charged at the local rate.

6.4 Legal aid

If you have a low income, you may be eligible for legal advice on matters arising from the crime. You may be asked to pay a contribution towards the cost of this legal aid but you may be able to pay this in instalments over several months. Your solicitor can advise whether you will qualify for legal aid and what the arrangements are for claiming it.

If you raise a court action with the help of public funding and your case is successful, you will be asked to put some or all of the money you receive towards your solicitor's bill. This is called 'clawback'. Make sure that your solicitor explains it before you go ahead with your case.

6.5 Benefits

Many people have financial worries after bereavement, so you might want to check if you are entitled to any welfare benefits. JobcentrePlus will be able to advise you about this. For your nearest office look for the display advert under JobcentrePlus in the business numbers section of the phone book. You can also receive advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau (your local branch will also be listed in the telephone directory).

If the deceased person was receiving any welfare benefits (such as a State Retirement Pension), or if you were receiving welfare benefits for them (such as Child Benefit), you need to let the Benefits Agency know about the death. You should also return any order books. The Registrar (who registers the death) will give you a certificate to fill in and return with the books. Keep a note of any reference numbers as you may need them later on. You should also let the Tax Office know about your change in circumstances.

6.6 Wills

A will appoints someone (known as the executor) to administer a dead person's estate (everything they owned).
It also gives instructions on how possessions and money should be distributed.

You will need to find out if the person made a will. Copies of wills may be held by a bank or a solicitor. If you are in doubt, contact a solicitor.

Wills can be complicated. Sometimes there is no will. Whether or not there is a will, a solicitor will be able to give you advice on what you need to do.

If you do not have a solicitor, you can get help from the Law Society of Scotland. The Law Society is the professional body to which all solicitors in Scotland belong. They can provide you with details about solicitors in your area. You can contact them on 0131 226 7411 (textphone 0131 476 8359) or visit their website at www.lawscot.org.uk.

Sorting out the affairs of someone who has died can be complex and distressing. It may take many months or years. Friends and family can be supportive at this time - they may be able to help in all sorts of ways.

6.7 Who do you need to tell about the death?

Depending on the circumstances, you may also need to contact some other organisations and people. These could include:

  • GP
  • Any hospital the person was attending
  • Other health professionals (for example, dentist, optician)
  • Employer
  • Personal or occupational pension schemes
  • Insurance company
  • Bank and/or building society
  • Mortgage provider or housing association
  • The local council housing department if the person was living in a council house
  • The local council Housing Benefit/Council Tax Benefit section if the person was getting Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Benefit (see section 6.5 about who to tell about other benefits)
  • A child or young person's teacher, or college or university if a parent, brother, sister, grandparent or close friend has died
  • DVLA (if the person had a driving licence, you will need to return it)
  • the Passport Office (if the person had a passport, you will need to return it)
  • A car insurance company (if you are insured to drive the car under the person's name, you will cease to be legally insured)
  • Gas, electricity and telephone suppliers
  • The Post Office so that they can redirect the mail of the person.

For more detailed information you may find the leaflet 'What to do after a death in Scotland' useful. It is available from the Scottish Executive Justice Department (contact 0131 244 2193) or on the internet ( http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/social/waad-00.asp).
A Scottish Executive textphone facility is available at 0131 244 1829.

6.8 Stopping unwanted mail

It can be upsetting to receive direct mail or sales calls for someone who has died. One way to reduce the chance of receiving junk mail is to contact the 'Bereavement Register' by calling 0870 600 7222 or logging on to its website at www.the-bereavement-register.org.uk. The process of registering is straightforward and free.

You can also stop unwanted telephone sales calls, mail and faxes by registering free with the following:

You have to re-register with these services every few years.

These services may not stop all unwanted correspondence but they will reduce the chance of it happening.

6.9 Debts

You may have worries about debt, or about managing your finances, especially if you are not used to dealing with money and bills on your own.

You may need to contact some organisations to establish responsibility for outstanding balances. Who these organisations are will depend on your own financial arrangements or those of the deceased person. But they could include credit card companies or ones that deal with personal loans.

If you have any money worries, you should get in touch with your local Citizens Advice Bureau. They provide advice but cannot themselves offer you financial support. You will find their telephone number in your local directory.

6.10 If you have concerns about the criminal justice system

This page explains how to make a comment or complaint to the authorities about the criminal justice system.

The Police

If your comments are about the police you can write to the Chief Constable of the force concerned. If you are not satisfied with the reply you receive, you can contact Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary ( HMIC), St Andrew's House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG. Telephone 0131 244 5614. HMIC will investigate how your complaint was dealt with by the Chief Constable, and may make recommendations to the police force concerned.

The Procurator Fiscal Service

If your comments are about the actions of the Procurator Fiscal you can write to them at their office. If you are not satisfied with the reply you receive you can write to the Lord Advocate at the Crown Office, 25 Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LA. The Lord Advocate is the Government Minister in charge of prosecutions and is answerable to the Scottish Parliament for the standards of the Procurator Fiscal Service.

If you are dissatisfied with the reply you receive you can contact your Member of the Scottish Parliament ( MSP) - see over.

Courts

If your comments are about a Sheriff Court or the High Court, you can write to the appropriate clerk of court. If you are not satisfied with the reply you receive, you can write to the Area Director for Court. If you are still not satisfied, you can write to the Chief Executive, at the Scottish Court Service, Hayweight House, 23 Lauriston Street, Edinburgh EH3 9DQ.

If your comments are about a Sheriff or Judge you can write to the Minister for Justice at the Scottish Executive, St Andrew's House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG.

Your Member of the Scottish Parliament ( MSP)

Your MSP's job is to represent your interests in the Parliament. You may want to write to or meet them to discuss any aspect of your case which you think they could act upon.

You can write to your MSP at the Scottish Parliament Edinburgh EH99 1SP. You can find out the name of your MSP by calling 0131 348 5000 (textphone 0845 270 0152) between 9am and 5pm or visiting the Scottish Parliament website at www.scottish.parliament.uk.