Legislation introduced to strengthen law on sexual offences and trafficking
Justice Minister Naomi Long MLA today introduced legislative proposals to improve public safety by updating the law on sexual offending in Northern Ireland.
The Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill has two core aims:
to enhance public safety by implementing certain elements of the Report of the Gillen review of serious sexual offence cases and from a review of the law on child sexual exploitation and sexual offences against children; and
to improve services for victims of trafficking and exploitation.
Naomi Long said:
“Introducing the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill to the Assembly today is an important step towards making our communities safer through strengthening existing law and introducing new offences.
“Since my appointment as Justice Minister, I have made it my priority to legislate to protect the most vulnerable victims.
“This important Bill contains provisions that will introduce more safeguards into the justice system. They complement those contained in my Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act 2021 and in my Protection from Stalking Bill, which is currently before the Assembly.
“The Bill includes provisions to address a number of priority issues across my Department, including provisions arising from the Gillen review to exclude the public from all serious sexual offence hearings and to introduce anonymity for defendants pre-charge.
“It also includes provisions to give effect to the outcome of a review of the law on child sexual exploitation and sexual offences against children. These include live streamed images in the definition of exploitation for sexual purposes and create a new offence of adults masquerading as children online.
“In addition, there are provisions to create a new offence of up-skirting and down blousing, alongside a number of other sex offence adjustments to ensure the law operates as intended in these areas.
“Taken collectively, the provisions in this Bill will introduce valuable additional protections for the most vulnerable in our community. I look forward to working with the Justice Committee and my Assembly colleagues to ensure the provisions of this Bill are enacted this mandate.”
The Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill was introduced to the Assembly on 5 July 2021.
The Bill is made up of 4 Parts, with 22 clauses and 3 Schedules.
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.