24/04/2018

Sex Crimes Review Announced By Criminal Justice Board

An independent review of the arrangements to deliver justice in serious sexual offence cases has been announced by the Criminal Justice Board.

Sir John Gillen will lead the review supported by an Advisory Panel.

The review, which begins today, Tuesday 24 April, is being established to consider the law and procedure covering the development and progression of cases of alleged serious sexual offences, taking account of experience from recent cases in Northern Ireland and developments in neighbouring jurisdictions. 

The review is expected to examine the following issues:

• disclosure of unused material

• support for victims and witnesses

• measures to ensure the anonymity of the complainant

• the arguments for defendant anonymity

• the impact of social media on trials

• reporting restrictions

• public attendance at trials

It is expected that the review will be completed by January 2019.
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Welcoming the news, Alliance MLA David Ford, said: "Last week, I wrote to leaders of the other political parties here asking them to join with me in calling for a review of how criminal law operates in these cases and what lessons can be learned from it relating to many issues, including the investigation and prosecution processes, the provision of anonymity for defendants, having an open public gallery, the use of social media from the courtroom and procedures for cross-questioning witnesses by several defence counsel. 

"I therefore welcome this news from the Department of Justice on this initiative by senior officials and the Lord Chief Justice. There is undoubtedly a pressing need to provide protections for both complainants and defendants in what is a difficult area. 

"There are a number of lessons need to be learned from the recent trial at Belfast Crown Court and I am confident Sir John Gillen will do a thorough job in looking at them. It is also important anyone who has concerns about this issue brings it forward and contributes to the review."

(MH)

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