16 Oct 2009

Financial help for families of homicide victims

8:54 pm on 16 October 2009

Families of homicide victims will be eligible for thousands of dollars of extra assistance to cover funeral expenses and court attendance costs, the Government has announced.

Up to $4,500 will be made available for families of homicide victims to help pay costs associated with a funeral.

A court attendance grant of $124 per person per day will be paid to up to five adult members of a homicide victim's family, and extra money will be made available for travel to High Court and Parole Board hearings.

The discretionary grant for families in financial difficulty will be increased from $1500 to $5000.

At a Victim Support conference in Wellington on Fridaym Justice Minister Simon Power said the initiatives were just the first step and is not dismissing the scheme being improved further.

Funding will come from revenue generated by the Offender Levy and funding from the disestablished Sentencing Council.

The levy is expected to generate $13.6 million in the first four years.

Small recognition, says Victim Support

Groups representing families of people who are victims of serious crime say the announcement of extra financial assistance is welcome, but it is just a first step.

Victim Support says it is just a small recognition of what families face. The organisation says people who have lost a family member to homicide can sometimes be off work for months, which can be hugely expensive.

The Candor Trust, which campaigns against drink and drugged driving, says families of people who are killed by impaired driving should also receive the assistance.

Gil Elliott, whose daughter Sophie was stabbed to death in their Dunedin home last year, told Checkpoint a few thousand dollars here and there is not enough.

Miss Elliott's former boyfriend, Clayton Weatherston, was found guilty of her murder following a five-week trial in Christchurch earlier this year and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He is appealing against his conviction.

Mr Elliot says it is amazing how much it costs families to recover - particularly if they have time off work.

"The Government needs a scheme like the ACC for victims of crime. The taxpayer funds the offender's legal defence team and certainly funds the criminals while they're in jail, so why can't victims be funded similarly?"