We must work together to deliver real change for victims of serious sexual assault: Long

Date published: 03 February 2020

Justice Minister Naomi Long has stressed the importance of working together across the justice system, the Executive and the voluntary and community sector to implement the recommendations of the Gillen Report in a way that will delivers the reform envisaged.

The Gillen Review and Report was commissioned by the Criminal Justice Board to examine how the criminal justice system deals with cases of serious sexual assault. Sir John Gillen made 253 recommendations for improving procedures and practice to deliver better outcomes and support for complainants.

Minister Long said: “I am committed to delivering real change in the experience of complainants. I welcome the commitment that has also been shown by justice partners to work together with my department to ensure co-ordinated reform.

“Sir John’s comprehensive review presents an opportunity for us to focus our efforts on delivering a justice system that complainants have confidence in. We want to prioritise those areas which can have the greatest impact on complainants going through that system in the first phase of implementation.”

Recommendations to be taken forward as a priority in the first phase of implementation include  the appointment of additional case progression officers in the PPS and PSNI, establishing a new Remote Evidence Centre in Belfast later this year and other locations thereafter to allow vulnerable complainants to give evidence without having to appear in court; providing complainants with legal advice and representation pre-trial to ensure complainants are better supported and have a voice from the outset, consideration of how best to take forward and pilot pre-recorded cross examination next year, where victims give their evidence ahead of trial; reform of the committal process later this year so that complainants only have to give oral evidence in court once; and scoping work in relation to providing additional support to young victims and witnesses includes consideration of the Barnahus (or child house) model in a Northern Ireland context.

A dedicated Implementation Team has been established in the Department of Justice to co-ordinate phased actions as agreed by the Criminal Justice Board.

Naomi Long said: “Implementation will take time and no one section of the justice system can resolve the issues raised in the report alone. Neither can the justice system on its own change how we as a society in Northern Ireland deal with issues of sexual violence in our communities.  

Actions on issues such as education around consent and rape myths can only be addressed by working together across the statutory and voluntary sectors, and I welcome the commitment of the Northern Ireland Executive to this in the new Decade, New Approach document.”

The implementation of the Gillen Report recommendations will be discussed with attendees of the ‘Gillen: where are we now?’ conference being hosted today by Victim Support NI.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Criminal Justice Board provides oversight of the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland. The Board is chaired by the Minister of Justice and comprises the Lord Chief Justice, the Chief Constable, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and senior officials from the Department of Justice.
  2. The Gillen Review: Report into the law and procedures in serious sexual offences in NI can be found at https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/publications/gillen-review-report-law-and-procedures-serious-sexual-offences-ni
  3. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.

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