Losing a loved one to crime may be one of the most painful and shocking experiences you can go through. It also means that you may need to deal with the justice process for many years following the crime.
The Victims of Crime Helpline can provide advice and support during this difficult time and connect you with services as you need them.
If anyone is in in immediate danger or a crime is currently occuring, please call police on Triple Zero (000). You can also go to your local police station (External link) to report a crime.
The Victims of Crime Helpline 1800 819 817 can provide information, support and advice.
What is culpable driving?
In Victoria, the crime of culpable driving causing death may occur when a person driving a vehicle causes another person’s death because:
- they were driving recklessly or negligently
- were under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that they could not control the vehicle.
Free support across Victoria
The Victims of Crime Helpline 1800 819 817 is available every day 8am to 11pm to provide information, advice and support to anyone who has lost a loved one or family member to culpable driving in Victoria.
The helpline can also help people who are experiencing difficulty and need support after being a witness to a violent crime.
When you contact the helpline, a Victims Support Officer can discuss your situation with you and advise on assistance and support services you can access.
The helpline may be able to organise a support worker from the Victims Assistance Program who can:
- organise counselling, transport and medical services
- help you communicate with police
- assist with managing disruptions to work and study by letting people know what has happened
- assist with applying for financial assistance.
Understanding the traumatic effects of crime
Losing a loved one to a crime is a frightening and traumatic experience. Witnesses who see someone hurt or killed can also be deeply affected, even if they do not know the victim.
Everyone's response is different, but it can be helpful to understand the common feelings and physical reactions people have and what to expect.
On this website, you can learn more about:
- common emotional and physical reactions to stressful events like crimes
- information about living with grief
- suggestions to help you with recovery
- how to best support a family member or friend
- how to help a child who has been affected by crime.
Whether it is just after the crime or you are dealing with ongoing effects on your health and wellbeing, counselling is available. The Victims of Crime Helpline 1800 819 817 can connect you to services that can help.
Help to understand the justice process
The Victims of Crime Helpline can answer your questions about:
- the justice process and what to expect
- getting information about the court case
- giving evidence as a witness and support that is available for you if you need to go to court
- preparing a Victim Impact Statement to tell the court how the crime affected you
- getting information about the offender if they are sentenced to prison from the Victims Register.
You can learn more about culpable driving and justice process below.
What will happen if there is a traffic incident on the road leading to a death?
When a person dies as the result of a traffic incident, there will usually be two investigations:
- the coroner’s investigation
- the police investigation.
The family or next of kin of the deceased person may be contacted by both the police and coroner’s staff.
The coroner’s investigation
A coroner’s investigation focuses on understanding the physical cause of death and the circumstances that led to the person dying.
To make their report, the coroner’s office:
- will usually undertake any medical examinations of the deceased person that are required
- will also consider findings from the police investigation
- may, in a small number of cases, hold an inquest (External link), where evidence will be given by witnesses (External link) to help the coroner understand the circumstances that led to the death.
If a person is charged with a crime relating to the death, the coroner will usually wait for the court process to finish before finishing their report.
You can read more about what happens in a coroner’s investigation (External link) at the Coroners Court of Victoria website. They also provide information for families about making funeral arrangements (External link).
The police investigation
A police investigation focuses on determining what happened and if someone should be charged with a crime.
At first, local police may be involved as they will probably be the first at the scene. In a road traffic incident involving death or serious injury, the Major Collision Investigation Unit will investigate.
Early in the investigation, family members will speak with several different police officers. Once a team is formed by police, a senior investigator will keep you updated on the progress of the investigation.
You should be kept informed by the police about how the investigation is going. It is important to understand that this does not mean that police can give you all the details about suspects, witnesses or evidence.
Sometimes, police may not be able to provide family members with certain information because it could put the investigation at risk.
If you would prefer not to hear any information about the investigation at all, let the police know.
The senior investigator will contact you during the investigation. From time to time, team members may contact you or other family members to collect information and take witness statements.
When enough evidence is collected to charge someone, the senior investigator will be your key contact to get information about the court case.
Going to court
After the police have charged an offender, the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) is notified and the charges are filed in court.
The Office of Public Prosecutions (External link) will:
- organise a solicitor for the case
- give you contact details so that you can ask about the case
- put you in touch with their Victims and Witness Assistance Service (External link).
As the case progresses, the OPP solicitor will keep you updated.
Dealing with the media
Some crimes can be of interest to the media. The police will not release the name of a victim without their consent or the consent of the next of kin, but the media may still be able to identify victims and contact them.
If you have questions or concerns, you can contact:
- the police officer in charge of your investigation
- The Victims of Crime Helpline on 1800 818 817.
You can learn more about victims of crime and the media.
Services for counselling and bereavement support
24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
Open: 24 hours, every day
Call: 13 11 14
Website: lifeline.org.au (External link)
Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement
Provides a specialist bereavement service for individuals, children and families who need assistance following the death of someone close to them, including face-to-face counselling and support groups.
Open: 9am–5pm Monday to Friday
Call: 1800 642 066
Website: grief.org.au (External link) to find out more about bereavement support (External link)
Road Trauma Support Services
Not for profit organisation that provides free counselling and support to people impacted by road trauma.
Open: 9am–5pm Monday to Friday
Call: 1300 367 797
Website: rtssv.org.au (External link)
Anonymous telephone counselling service providing support to people who are experiencing loss and grief.
Open: 6am-midnight, every day
Call: 1300 845 745
Website: griefline.org.au (External link)
The Compassionate Friends Victoria
Supporting parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents after the death of a child at any age.
Open: 24 hours, every day
Call: (03) 9888 4944 or 1300 064 068
Website: compassionatefriendsvictoria.org.au (External link)
Transport Accident Commission (TAC)
Information about the assistance the TAC can provide (External link) if someone has been injured or killed in a road accident.
Open: 8.30–5.30pm, Monday to Friday
Call: 1300 654 329 (local call) or 1800 332 556 (toll-free outside Melbourne)
Website: tac.vic.gov.au (External link)
Coroners Court of Victoria
For information about a coroner’s investigation you can contact the Coroners Court.
Call: 1300 309 519
Website: coronerscourt.vic.gov.au (External link)
Victorian Legal Aid
Victoria Legal Aid’s (VLA) Legal Help service provides free general legal information over the phone and by chat online.
Open: 8am–6pm, every day
Call: 1800 677 402
Website: legalaid.vic.gov.au (External link)
Victoria’s health and safety regulator and manager of Victoria’s workers compensation scheme (WorkCover). If the death happened while the person was performing work duties, you may be entitled to make a claim.
Open: 7.30am–6.30pm, Monday to Friday
Call: 1800 136 089
Website: worksafe.vic.gov.au (External link)