Northern Ireland news

Rugby rape trial: Department of Justice to review how sex crimes are handled

The Department of Justice is to review how sex crimes are handled
Staff Reporter

A REVIEW of how serious sexual crimes are handled is expected to be announced by the Department of Justice this week.

Victims' groups requested the review in the wake of the Ulster rugby trial last month.

Following the nine-week trial, Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted of raping a student at a house party in 2016.

Jackson was also acquitted of sexual assault.

Groups including Victim Support NI, Nexus NI, the Women's Aid Federation and the Men's Advisory Project had called for a review of how the criminal justice system handles sex crimes.

The independent review is expected to be led by a judge, supported by an advisory group of experts.

It will be asked to report to the Criminal Justice Board early next year.

It is understood the review will look at issues including whether anonymity should be extended to defendants, as happens in the Republic, the disclosure of evidence and the level of support provided to those involved in cases.

It is believed the review will also look at restricting the public from attending sex crime cases and potential reporting restrictions.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has already initiated discussions among senior judges about how sexual violence cases are handled by the courts.

The high-profile trial has led to criticisms of the way such cases are conducted, with the eight days that the complainant was forced to spend in the witness box among issues cited.

The defendants each spent less than four hours giving evidence.

Trial judge Patricia Smyth is among those being consulted by Sir Declan on how the process can be improved in the absence of new legislation.

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