A charity which supports victims of sexual violence has welcomed draft recommendations on how the law and procedures in the North deal with serious sexual offences.
Helena Bracken, of Nexus NI, encouraged everyone to have their say on the recommendations to ensure that the measures proposed were implemented.
“Rape or sexual assault can happen to anyone and we should all take it upon ourselves to respond to this consultation so future generations don’t have to go through what many victims have had to go through.”
Sir John Gillen, who is leading an independent review into how the law and procedures in Northern Ireland deal with serious sexual offences, published his preliminary report earlier this week.
The report, by the recently retired Court of Appeal judge, contains over 220 draft recommendations which are open for consultation until January, 2019.
Recommendations include measures to urgently tackle issues such as the disclosure of evidence and rape myths, both of which are creating delays in the justice system.
They also include the option of a measure of publicly funded legal advice for complainants; banning the public from attending serious sexual crime trials and the introduction of legislation to manage the danger created by the inappropriate use of social media.
Sir John Gillen also recommends the introduction of anonymity for suspects pre-charge and measures to address the vast under reporting of serious sexual crime.
Helena Bracken said Nexus NI have been campaigning for years for such improvements and if the proposals are implemented they could encourage more victims to proceed with criminal cases.
“Public confidence in the system has been destroyed over the last number of years. Only two per cent of our clients proceed with criminal cases, which is nothing.
“They don’t put themselves forward for a number of valid reasons, including delay, concerns they are going to be re-traumatised and that there is little prospect of a conviction. If these proposals are implemented it is a start, a really good start, to improve things.”
Geraldine Hanna, CEO of Victim Support NI, said the current system is ‘not fit for purpose.’
Ms. Hanna said the recommendations made by Sir John ‘could vastly improve things for future victims and survivors who choose to engage with the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.’
She added: “The Gillen review offers a milestone opportunity to create positive change, reduce delays and deliver a system which is fair for all parties. Now is the time for the general public to speak up and speak out! It is the time for all of us to make our voices heard in order to help create a system which is fit for purpose in how it deals with sexual violence.”
The consultation will remain open until Friday, January 15, 2019 and an outreach event will take place in the city, as well as in Belfast and Enniskillen, during this process.
The preliminary report can be found at: www.gillenreview.org.