Justice Minister Naomi Long MLA took steps to further strengthen existing law and introduce new offences to tackle sexual offending in Northern Ireland.
Moving the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill to Consideration Stage in the NI Assembly, Minister Long said: “Since my appointment as Justice Minister, I have made it my priority to legislate to protect the most vulnerable victims.
“Having already brought forward significant new safeguards in the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act 2021 and in the Protection from Stalking Bill, the moving of this Bill today represents another important step in delivering a legislative programme that will make our communities safer and provide additional support to victims who have suffered abuse and exploitation.”
The Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill has two core aims:
- to enhance public safety by implementing certain elements of the Report of the Gillen review of serious sexual offence cases and from a review of the law on child sexual exploitation and sexual offences against children; and
- to improve services for victims of trafficking and exploitation.
Naomi Long continued: “This Bill includes provisions to address a number of issues that have been prioritised to have the most impact on the experiences of victims; including measures to exclude the public from all serious sexual offence hearings the creation of a new offence of adults masquerading as children online and a new offence of up-skirting and down blousing.
“These provisions have been further strengthened by the addition of a number of new provisions to the Bill to abolish what is known as the rough sex defence; extend existing provisions relating to the publication of private sexual images to include a threat of publication; to widen the scope and strengthen the current law on abuse of a position of trust of a child; and to create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation.
“Taken collectively, the provisions that were included in the Bill at Introduction, together with these valuable new additions, will provide further protections for the most vulnerable in our community. I am grateful to the Justice Committee who have completed their scrutiny of the Bill and I look forward to working with my Assembly colleagues to ensure the provisions of this Bill are enacted this mandate.”