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Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022

Chapter 2: Anonymity and Privacy

23.These provisions implement four of the Gillen recommendations. These are:


To extend the current lifelong anonymity of the victim of a sexual offence to provide for their anonymity for 25 years after death. The provisions allow for applications to be made to the court to discharge or modify reporting restrictions, including to reduce or increase the period of 25 years;


To provide for the anonymity of the suspect in a sexual offence case up to the point of charge. Where a suspect is not subsequently charged, then the anonymity will be protected during their lifetime and for 25 years after their death. The provision allows for applications to be made to the court to dis-apply or modify reporting restrictions, including to reduce or increase the period of 25 years;


To increase the penalty for breach of anonymity. Currently a penalty of up to a level 5 fine on summary conviction is available for breach of anonymity. The provisions increase the penalty to a maximum of six months imprisonment, or a fine, or both; and


To exclude the public from hearings of serious sexual offence cases (Crown Court and those proceeded by way of appeal to the Appeal Court). Only the complainant, the accused, persons directly involved in the proceedings, a witness while giving evidence, any person required to assist a witness, jury members and bona fide members of the press will be allowed to remain in the court during the hearing of a serious sexual offence. The court also has discretion to permit any other person to remain in the court where it considers it is in the interests of justice to do so.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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