Charity Welcomes Northern Ireland Sex Crime Paper

A children’s charity has welcomed consultation on reforming the law on sexual offences in Northern Ireland. Criminal Justice Minister David Hanson announced a three-month consultation period and said he wanted to provide “modern, robust legislation.” It could mean tough new laws on rape and other sexual offences next year.

The NSPCC said the move would bring legislation into line with England and Wales and “recognised the need to further protect children.”

Martin Crummey, acting divisional director of NSPCC Northern Ireland, said: “We have campaigned for this consultation for some time in order that children in Northern Ireland are given the same protection as those in the rest of the UK.

“I am pleased that government has recognised the need to further protect children and young people here and I look forward to seeing the changes in legislation as they develop.”

Mr Hanson announced on Tuesday that the consultation period would run to 13 October. He said the paper provided an opportunity to canvass views on how the government shapes the law on rape and other serious sexual offences.

“It offers the chance to define what should or should not be criminal sexual behaviour, how we protect the most vulnerable in our society from inappropriate sexual activity, and what penalties we attach when offences are committed,” he said.

“Our aim in reforming the law is ultimately to provide the public with the maximum protection from this type of particularly traumatic crime, and to make it easier to prosecute and convict the guilty. “

He said the government wanted to ensure children were safe from “predatory and familial abuse, and from those who would exploit them for commercial gain”.

“We are also suggesting that the most serious offence of rape is given a wider definition and joined by an offence of sexual assault by penetration, both with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The consultation will allow views to be given on all the proposals before action is taken on legislation, planned for next year. Northern Ireland will then have a modern and robust body of law on sexual offences.”