Ford asks party leaders to join him in call for review on criminal law

Alliance MLA David Ford has written to party leaders asking them to join him in calling for a review of how criminal law operates in light of the recent high-profile rape trial here.

Mr Ford said the trial at Belfast Crown Court highlighted a number of issues of concern regarding the application of the law on rape and other serious sexual crimes, showing there are widely different views on the lessons to be learned from it.

“The trial and focus around it highlighted several issues, including the investigation and prosecution processes, the provision of anonymity for defendants, having an open public gallery, the use of social media from the courtroom and procedures for cross-questioning witnesses by several defence counsel.

“The question is now how to best provide proper protection for the interests of both defendants and complainants. While the issues in each criminal case will be different, the intense publicity given to this recent case has demonstrated the need for a review of how the criminal law operates in this difficult area.

“In the absence of a Minister of Justice, there is a case for a multi-party approach to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Justice requesting him to initiate such a review, taking into account the views of non-governmental organisations and building on the work being done by the judiciary. I have written to the party leaders at the Assembly asking them to consider this idea and hope they agree with me action needs to be taken.”

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