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

Anonymity of victims
Section 8: Extended anonymity of victims

This section amends section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 (the 1992 Act) to extend the existing lifelong anonymity of the alleged victim of a sexual offence, or the complainant in a sexual offence case, for a period of 25 years after the death of the alleged victim or complainant.

Lifelong anonymity is provided under the 1992 Act by prohibiting the publication, during the victim’s or complainant’s lifetime, of anything that would help to identify them. This section extends the reporting restrictions for a period of 25 years after their death. The sexual offences to which the provisions apply are those listed in section 2 of the 1992 Act.

Section 9: Disapplication of anonymity of victim after death

This section amends the 1992 Act by inserting new sections 3A (Disapplication of section 1 after victim’s death) and 3B (Rules of Court). Section 3A(2) provides for interested parties to make application to the court for an order dis-applying or modifying the reporting restrictions under amended section 1 of the 1992 Act as they apply to the prohibition of reporting anything that would lead to the identification of a victim for 25 years after their death.

Section 3A(4) clarifies that any order of the court to modify the reporting restrictions can reduce or increase the 25 year period.

Under section 3A(4) an ‘interested party’ means a family member or a personal representative of the deceased victim, or a person interested in publishing matters relating to the deceased victim. Sections 3A(8) and 3A(9) further define ‘family member’.

Section 3A(5) places a duty on the court to make an order where an application has been made and where it is in the interests of justice or the public interest to do so. Under section 3A(6), any order made can be subsequently varied or revoked by the court on an application by an interested party, where the court is satisfied that the same tests are met.

New section 3B makes express provision for the making of Court Rules relating to the process of making applications to the court to dis-apply or modify reporting restrictions and the consideration of these applications by the court.

Section 10: Increase in penalty for breach of anonymity

This section amends section 5 of the 1992 Act to provide that a person guilty of breach of anonymity will be liable, on summary conviction, to a term of imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.

Section 11: Special rules for providers of information society services

This section inserts a Schedule into the 1992 Act which sets out protections for certain online service providers from legal responsibility for illegal publication where the online service providers are a mere conduit for the relevant information, caching the information or hosting the information.

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Explanatory Notes

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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