Ford welcomes review into criminal law in serious sexual offence cases

Alliance MLA David Ford has welcomed news a review has been launched into how the criminal justice system here deals with serious sexual offence cases.

The review, which Mr Ford called for last week in the wake of the recent high-profile rape trial in Belfast, will be led by former judge Sir John Gillen. It is expected to examine issues such as the disclosure of evidence and the level of support provided to complainants, victims and witnesses, and is due to be completed by January 2019.

“Last week, I wrote to leaders of the other political parties here asking them to join with me in calling for a review of how criminal law operates in these cases and what lessons can be learned from it relating to many 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.

“I therefore welcome this news from the Department of Justice on this initiative by senior officials and the Lord Chief Justice. There is undoubtedly a pressing need to provide protections for both complainants and defendants in what is a difficult area.

“There are a number of lessons need to be learned from the recent trial at Belfast Crown Court and I am confident Sir John Gillen will do a thorough job in looking at them. It is also important anyone who has concerns about this issue brings it forward and contributes to the review.”

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