Justice Minister Naomi Long is extending the Sexual Offences Legal Advisers pilot scheme until March 2025.

Date published: 15 February 2024

Minister Long said: “I introduced this pilot scheme in April 2021 to provide free, independent legal advice and advocacy to adult complainants in serious sexual offence cases, up to the point of trial – since then more than 1,600 people have received free legal advice.

“Extending the support to victims through the criminal justice process helps them understand their rights and make informed decisions about their case.”

The one-year funding extension has been welcomed by Janice Bunting CEO Victim Support NI, the lead agency providing practical and emotional support to victims and witnesses in Northern Ireland.

Minister Long confirmed the funding extension during a visit to the recently opened Belfast Remote Evidence Centre, which allows vulnerable or intimidated victims and witnesses to provide their evidence to the court using live link video technology.

Belfast Remote Evidence Centre is supported by Victim Support NI (adults) and NSPCC’s Young Witness Service (children).

The Minister concluded: “It is encouraging to see further progress being made on the Gillen recommendations with the provision of Belfast Remote Evidence Centre, which is already improving outcomes for victims and witnesses of crime. As Justice Minister I want to continue to prioritise those areas which can have the greatest impact on complainants going through the criminal justice system.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. The location of Belfast Remote Evidence Centre is confidential to safeguard vulnerable victims and witness granted special measures to use the facility.
  2. Both Sexual Offences Legal Advisers and Remote Evidence Centres are out-workings of Sir Justice Gillen’s review.
  3. Department of Justice media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office via email (press.office@justice-ni.gov.uk)
  4. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hour’s service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours on 028 9037 8110.
  5. Follow us on Twitter (twitter.com/Justice_NI)

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