Long: New legislation will protect the most vulnerable

Date published: 13 September 2021

Up-skirting, down-blousing and adults masquerading as children online are among the new offences that today are one step closer to becoming law, following the introduction of the second stage of legislation by Justice Minister, Naomi Long.

Naomi Long said: “The Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill has the protection of victims at its heart. I am determined to do everything I can to ensure victims are heard and that they feel confident in the criminal justice system.

“This Bill incorporates recommendations from the Gillen Review of serious sexual offences and it also implements elements following a review of the law on child sexual exploitation and sexual offences against children.

“Services for victims of trafficking and exploitation will also be enhanced as a result of this legislation.”

Provisions within the Bill include the exclusion of the public from all serious sexual offence hearings and the introduction of anonymity for defendants pre-charge.

New offences of adults masquerading as children online, up-skirting and down blousing will also be created.

Speaking in the Assembly Chamber today, Minister Long also set out a number of amendments which have been agreed by the Executive for development and inclusion in the Bill.

These include strengthening current ‘revenge pornography’ laws to include threats to disclose private sexual photographs in order to cause distress; making provisions to ensure consent for serious harm for the purpose of sexual gratification cannot lawfully be given in relation to addressing the use of ‘the rough sex defence’; and the extension of existing legislation covering an abuse of position of trust of a child to include sports and faith settings.

Naomi Long concluded: “This is important legislation, which strengthens existing law and introduces new offences. It will make our communities safer and it will have a real, tangible and positive effect for victims, introducing valuable additional protections for the most vulnerable.

“The fact that I am able to bring this Bill forward today underlines the importance of devolution and how the Assembly really can make a tangible and positive difference to lives in Northern Ireland.

“I look forward to working with the Justice Committee and my Assembly colleagues to ensure the provisions of this Bill are enacted this mandate.”

Notes to editors: 

1.  The Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill was introduced to the Assembly on 5  July 2021. 

2.  The Bill is made up of 4 Parts, with 22 clauses and 3 Schedules.

3.  The full list of provisions in the Bill is as follows:

Provisions arising from the Gillen review, which include;

  • exclusion of public from all serious sexual offence hearings;
  • anonymity for defendants pre-charge;
  • anonymity of complainants to continue after death; and
  • an increase in the penalty for breach of anonymity;

Provisions arising from the outcome of a review of the law on child sexual exploitation and sexual offences against children to;

  • replace legislative references to ‘child prostitution’ and ‘child pornography’;
  • include live streamed images in the definition of exploitation for sexual purposes; and
  • create a new offence of adults masquerading as children online.

Provisions to create a new offence of up skirting and down blousing;

Adjustments to include the offence of abduction of children in care to Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) arrangements:

Adjustments to dis-apply time limits for complaints under Violent Offences Prevention Order (VOPO) arrangements; and

Amendments to modern slavery provisions in the Northern Ireland Human Trafficking Act to extend support to victims of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour; and to remove the statutory requirement to produce an annual Modern Slavery Strategy;

4.  Copies of the Bill and Explanatory Notes can be accessed at the Northern Ireland Assembly web-site at www.niassembly.gov.uk

5.  For media enquiries please contact DoJ Press Office by email: press.office@justice-ni.gov.uk

6.  Follow us on Twitter @Justice_NI

7.  The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours 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 on 028 9037 8110.

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