New offences including “up-skirting”, “down-blousing” and “cyber-flashing” come into effect today, Department of Justice (DoJ) has announced.
The changes to the law on sexual offending mark the final stage of the implementation of the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 – a key area of the Department’s legislative reform programme.
Permanent Secretary at the Department of Justice, Richard Pengelly CB, said: “The commencement of these new provisions completes the final stage of a comprehensive implementation programme established to bring the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 into operation.
“The combination of new laws addresses a range of particular behaviours which have become increasingly prevalent within society, and it strengthens some existing law identified as needing additional protection.”
The changes to the law include:
- Four new offences to capture the specific and highly intrusive behaviours of, what is commonly known as, “up-skirting” and “down-blousing”. They relate to the observing or recording of a person’s genitals, buttocks, breasts or underwear without a person’s consent;
- The new offence of “sending an unwanted sexual image” to capture the behaviour of those who intentionally send an image of their genitals or sexual activity to another person without that person’s consent. This is commonly known as “cyber-flashing”;
- Four new offences designed to tackle the particular behaviour of an adult pretending to be a child and making a communication with a child under 16 with a view to sexual grooming. These act as a precursor to more serious grooming behaviours and build on existing child grooming protections;
- Extending the scope of the established abuse of position of trust offences to capture those adults in a position of trust who knowingly coach, teach, train, supervise or instruct a child on a regular basis in the area of sport or religion; and
- Amending the existing offence of disclosing a private sexual photograph and film with intent to cause distress to bring the behaviour of threatening to disclose a private sexual photograph and film with intent to cause distress within its scope.
Mr Pengelly added: “Today is a major milestone, bringing the final provisions of the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 into operation - delivered in conjunction with our criminal justice partners and with the assistance of key voluntary sector partners.
“The creation of new offences and the bolstering of existing offences makes it clear that these behaviours are totally unacceptable, and it sends an important message that they will not be tolerated in our society. Those who would carry out these behaviours should be aware that there are serious consequences to their actions, with a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment applying to the offences, as well as the potential to be placed on the sex offender register.
“Victims can be reassured that they do not have to accept treatment of this kind and I hope they will be encouraged to report any instances to the police and seek out relevant support.”
Notes to editors:
- The Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 received Royal Assent on 27 April 2022. The provisions have been implemented in three key stages, and the commencement of these provisions, stage 3, marks the final stage of implementation of the Act.
- Voyeurism (Section 1 of the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022)
- Sending etc. an unwanted sexual image (Section 2 of the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022)
- Sexual grooming: pretending to be a child (Section 4 of the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022)
- Abuse of position of trust: relevant positions (Section 5 of the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022)
- Private sexual images: threatening to disclose (Section 6 of the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022)
- More information for victims of sexual offences is available on NI Direct www.nidirect.gov.uk/up-skirting-down-blousing-and-cyber-flashing
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