About the review

The Criminal Justice Board has commissioned an independent review of the arrangements to deliver justice in serious sexual offence cases. A former Lord Justice of Appeal, the Right Honourable Sir John Gillen, will lead the review supported by an Advisory Panel.

The review has been established to consider law, procedure and practice covering the development and progression of cases of alleged serious sexual offences, taking account of experience from recent cases in Northern Ireland and developments in other jurisdictions. The purpose of the Review is to determine whether current arrangements deliver the best outcomes for victims, defendants and justice, and to make recommendations for improvements.

Scope of the Review

The Review will examine current processes and assess whether developments in other jurisdictions around the world may provide a better and more effective way for the criminal justice system to deliver justice in these extremely sensitive and complex cases.

The Review will investigate the law and procedures for progressing serious sexual offences. In conducting its work, the Review will have regard to legislation, procedure and practice for such cases in other jurisdictions.

The Review will consider the ‘complainant’s journey’, from the initial complaint through to the point of court disposal. It will take appropriate account of the views of individuals and victims’ organisations, legal practitioners, and the criminal justice organisations involved in the conduct of such cases.

The scope of the Review will include the following areas:

  • disclosure of evidence
  • support for complainants, victims and witnesses – from the time of the initial complaint through to post-trial support
  • measures to ensure the anonymity of the complainant
  • the arguments for defendant anonymity
  • pre-recorded cross-examination
  • the impact of social media on the conduct of court procedures
  • provisions for restrictions on reporting
  • restrictions on public attendance
  • separate legal representation for complainants
  • jury myths
  • cross examination of previous sexual experiences
  • delay
  • legal definition of consent
  • experience of minorities
  • experience of children
  • jury trial
  • training of stakeholders

Timeframe of the Review

The Review commenced in May 2018.  A consultation paper will go out in November, and the final Review will be completed by early 2019.