Family Liaison Officer (FLO): Very Shortly after a death you will be introduced to a specially trained Police Officer, known as a Family Liaison Officer or FLO. The main role of the FLO is to act as a ‘contact point’ between you and the Senior Investigating Officer or SIO. The FLO is part of the investigation team carrying out two main functions:-
The FLO is part of the investigation team carrying out two main functions:- * To gather information from the family about the deceased ‘loved-one’ and to pass that information on to the team… * To act as a point of contact between you and the SIO, to liase with you about the progress of the investigation - keep you updated with any relevant occurrences. He or she will also ensure you are referred to a ‘Support Agency’ for example Victim Support to assist with emotional needs, if you feel ready or wish to…(or you may feel that you would prefer to have contact with Victim Support and/or Grief Counselling at a later stage).
The FLO will also provide advice and guidance into the workings of the Criminal Justice System. He or she will work with you throughout the investigation and the period leading up to, during and after any Court Appearances/Trial. The FLO will also introduce you to other Support Groups such as the Witness Service, if there is a Trial/Court Case. If you want to talk to other organisations involved in the enquiry into the death, such as Crown Prosecution Service (when someone is charged with an Offence). Local Authorities or the Coroner’s Office, your FLO with endeavour to arrange this for you. It is of course natural, to want to know how the ‘loved-one’ died. If a suspect is identified, and how they will be dealt with in Law…the FLO will do their best to answer these questions.
Seeing your ‘Loved-One’ and Identifying them - Deciding whether to see the person is difficult in ordinary circumstances. If that person has been killed in a violent way this may make the decision more difficult. After someone dies, they are taken to a Hospital Mortuary or a Coroner’s Mortuary. Someone will be asked by the Police to identify the person or in some cases their belongings, then sign a Statement confirming the Identity. If you are not asked to carry out this identity, you may still choose to see your ‘loved-one’…sometimes the identification will be done at the scene of the death - it will depend on the circumstances.
Being a Family Liaison Officer...DC Ray O'Hare talks about his role as an FLO: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cos5KPQZQno
Seeing Your Loved One: Seeing the person may, for some people, be the first step towards handling grief and helping you to face the reality of death. Some people who do not see their ‘loved-one’ who has died, find it harder to accept that he or she has ‘passed away’. Being worried or frightened about seeing the person is perfectly normal…you may not want your last memory of them to be in a coffin or at the mortuary.
Identification: It may be that you are unable to see the person until after a ‘post-mortem’ has been carried out. This is because a huge amount of the investigation into the cause of death is carried out then…as well as evidence which may help to convict a suspect is found on the clothes and from the person’s body. There has to be a lot of thought given to anything which might bring ‘Forensic Contamination’ into the case being investigated. Your FLO will explain why you can or cannot see your ‘loved-one’ and/or whether or not you can touch them. If the person who died carried a Donor Card or was listed on the NHS Organ Donor Register, as the next of kin you should be contacted to ask whether or not you agree to donation. However, if the cause of death is suspicious, it is very unlikely that organ or tissue donation will be possible, due to the forensic examination time frame necessary to ensure the best possible evidence. Also, it may appear in the early stages of investigation that the donation of a particular organ or tissue has no bearing on the cause of death, it can never be presumed.
There are times when, because of the injuries sustained by the person who has died, identification may have to be made by other means. Identification may have to be done through Dental Records, fingerprints taken from places where the person is known to have been and/or DNA - compared with DNA from living relatives…(in these cases it may not be possible to see the person - you may also be advised that the coffin should be a ‘closed coffin’ - sealed, when finally he or she is released for a Funeral to take place). Your FLO, Funeral Director or even the Coroner will be able to advise you, however, it is important to say that no one can dictate that the coffin remain closed. A Coroner may advise that the coffin should be kept closed, but it is at the discretion of a relative whether he/she wants to see and touch the body.
Where can I find more information? If you have not been asked about organ or tissue donation and want to find out if it is possible, speak to the Familiy Liaison Officer (FLO) or Coroner's Officer.
For more information about donation and transplantation...go to the Human Tissue Authority's website at www.hta.gov.uk
You can also contact the Organ Donor Helpline on 0300 123 23 23...lines are open 24 hours. Or go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ukt/about_transplants/about_transplants.asp
Obtaining Personal Possessions of the Deceased Loved-one: Sometimes, the Police or Hospital Staff may retain the personal belongings of the person who has died. If the personal belongings are being used as evidence, it may be a significant time before they can be returned to you.
In some cases it may be possible for the Police to photograph or copy the item before they return the original items to you. You may then be asked to keep the item safe and secure in case the prosecution or defence team may need to use it in the future. This depends on the type of item, its cosition, or the weight of evidence it gives the prosecution case.
A FLO will be able to give you specific advice about the deceased loved-one's personal possessions relating to your particular case.