2004 Spring, 87. State Office Of Victim/Witness Assistance.

AuthorBy Sandra Matheson, Director

New Hampshire Bar Journal


2004 Spring, 87.

State Office Of Victim/Witness Assistance

New Hampshire Bar Journal Spring 2004, Volume 45, Number 1 State Office Of Victim/Witness Assistance By Sandra Matheson, Director INTRODUCTION

The State Office of Victim/Witness Assistance, within the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office, is committed to ensuring that all victims of crime in New Hampshire are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. The experience of victims in New Hampshire is very different today than it was years ago.



Since those real crimes against real people, New Hampshire has made tremendous progress in recognizing and ensuring the rights of crime victims. In 1985, the state's first prosecution-based Victim/Witness Assistance Program was created in Hillsborough County. In 1987, the State Office of Victim/Witness Assistance was created legislatively (RSA 21-M), to (a) provide 24-hour direct services and support in all of the state's homicide cases; (b) coordinate efforts among the county attorneys, law enforcement and other agencies in developing and standardizing services for victims of crime statewide; (c) develop protocols and policies; and (d) provide training to all of the multidisciplinary professionals involved in these issues.


New Hampshire is one of a limited number of states, where all homicides, with the exception of negligent homicides, are prosecuted out of the Attorney General's Office. This enables a centralized victim services unit to be involved from the onset of the investigation. The Office has two full-time victim/witness advocates who are on-call 24 hours a day.

When a homicide occurs anywhere in the state, an advocate responds to the scene. The advocate is responsible for notifying the victim's family of the death of their loved one and for providing immediate crisis intervention and support to both family members and witnesses to the crime. Services provided by the advocate are extensive and can include arranging for the cleanup of the homicide scene, informing the family of the results of the autopsy and assisting them with funeral arrangements. As the case proceeds through the criminal justice system, the advocate provides services and support to the family. These include orientation and information on the court process and procedures, notification of case information (e.g. status, hearings), accompaniment and support at all pre-trial and post-trial hearings, and employer, school and creditor intervention, if needed. The advocate is also knowledgeable about community resources and referrals and assists families with obtaining victims' compensation funds and property return.

Services do not end with the disposition of the case, but continue throughout the post-conviction, sentence suspension/review, and parole hearings. The relationship between the advocate and the family can go on for years.

From 1990 through 2002, the advocates responded to 259 homicides, of which 119 (or 46%) involved family violence. With each homicide, the advocates face the suffering and loss of victims and witnesses every day, but continue to meet the demands for their services with a strong sense of dedication and commitment.

When not providing direct services in homicide cases, Victim/Witness personnel also provide consultation and training to the county victim/witness programs as well as intervention and referrals in response to calls, complaints and requests from New Hampshire citizens.


In addition to the direct services homicide program, the goal of the State Office is to ensure that the rights of victims of crime are protected and to reduce the impact that crime and the resulting involvement in the criminal justice system has on the...

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