The Ombudsman is committed to involving families in all our investigations into deaths. The purpose of family liaison is to help families to obtain answers to their questions regarding the circumstances of the death, and to have a clear point of contact with the Ombudsman’s office.

Principles of family liaison

To provide the best service to families, family liaison officers (FLOs):

  • work with families in a way that is respectful, appropriate and sensitive to their needs
  • share information about the investigation with families as fully and as speedily as the Ombudsman’s powers and the law allow – information should be shared when it has been verified by thorough investigation.
  • are the public face of the Ombudsman’s office in its engagement with bereaved families
  • contribute to a co-ordinated response to the needs of families and advise families about other agencies offering appropriate support
  • do not advocate for the family or raise their expectations inappropriately, or compromise the independence of the investigation
  • do not make promises to families which they cannot keep or say things because they think that is what the family would like to hear
  • do not provide a bereavement counselling service, but can provide information on available counselling services.

Key functions of family liaison

The Family Liaison Officer (FLO) is the key member of the investigation team.

Family liaison officers make the first contact with the bereaved family. If the family choose to be involved in the investigation, then the FLO remains in contact with them until the investigation has been completed.

Family liaison provides documented, two-way communication between the family and the Ombudsman. In particular, the FLO prepares the family for any aspect of the report which is likely to be surprising or distressing.

There are three key stages at which the FLO is involved in an investigation:

  • identifying the family’s concerns and issues
  • gathering the family’s feedback on the factual accuracy of the draft report
  • share the final report with the family.

How families can get involved in the investigation

If the family choose to be involved in the investigation, they can:

  • ask questions and raise any concerns about the death via the FLO
  • ask to meet with the FLO and investigator
  • receive, read and comment on the factual accuracy of the draft report
  • request redacted documents considered during the course of an investigation.

You can contact the Family Liaison Team at the PPO by emailing PPOFIIadmin@ppo.gsi.gov.uk

For more information on family liaison see our leaflet A Guide to the PPO’s investigation of fatal incidents for family and friends

Legal representatives

The independent organisation INQUEST also provide a free specialist advice service about deaths in custody. They can assist in putting families in touch with lawyers who are experienced in representing families.

Law Centres provides a free and independent, professional legal service to people who live or work in their catchment areas.