The role of a FLO - entering a family's life when their world has turned upside down
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A family liaison officer will enter your life when life as you know it has changed forever.
Often delivering the worst news you could comprehend receiving – your loved one has died.
Of course, the circumstances are always different, but often the death is a result of a road collision.
Over the weeks and months that follow, the family liaison officer (FLO) will provide support to the family of the person who has died, providing them with a continuous point of contact within the police through any subsequent court proceedings and inquest, as well as signposting to relevant support agencies.
Detective Sergeant Toni Nugent trained to become a FLO in 2017 because she wanted to help families in their time of need.
“You are there for families during a lot of ups and downs, and it can be an extremely emotive role, but it also brings a sense of pride and fulfilment that you are helping them through a life changing time,” she said. “I still think about the families I have helped in the past and wonder how they are coping.”
One particular case that has stayed with Toni during her career is that of a man who died on his motorbike as he travelled through Wiltshire on the way to meet friends at the beach.
His parents lived in a neighbouring county.
Toni said: “I visited his parents’ house to take a life statement all about their son – they showed me around the house and his ashes were on the mantlepiece. They talked about their memories of him and how they now planned to move from the family home.
“The case ended up in a trial which I attended with the family who travelled down to Salisbury every day. It was a really difficult and emotive situation as the driver involved in the collision had made one seemingly minor mistake and didn’t check her mirrors, which caused the collision. She stopped at the scene and was with the man when he died at the roadside. All the man’s parents wanted to know was whether he spoke before he died. After the sentencing was complete, the driver wanted to speak to the family and we agreed this could happen with me present. In some ways it was a satisfying meeting as his mum got to ask whether her son had spoken before passing away and what he said and the woman was able to tell her. I will never forget his mum saying ‘thank you’ and telling the woman it was an accident and she shouldn’t blame herself. They shared a hug and went their separate ways.
“It will always stay with me. Despite such a horrendous incident, the family amazed me in being so forgiving and understanding.”
This month, Wiltshire Police is making road safety a priority following a rise in fatal and serious injury collisions in the county. Officers are focusing on raising awareness of the fatal five – driving at excess speed, not wearing a seatbelt, using a mobile phone, drink/drug driving and careless driving.
Having attended countless scenes of destruction on our roads in her role as a FLO, Toni has a strong message for motorists.
“It doesn’t matter if you are in the car on your own, or with others, you must be completely focused on what you are doing and pay the road your full attention. One minor mistake can have massive consequences. The trauma is felt on both sides – it is life changing and utterly devastating for all involved.”