Long: New legislation will protect the most vulnerable

Up-skirting, down-blousing and adults masquerading as children online are among the new offences that today are one step closer to becoming law in NI.

Monday, 13th September 2021, 2:28 pm

It follows the introduction of the second stage of legislation in the Assembly by Justice Minister, Naomi Long.

She 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.”