Sinn Féin Councillor Aileen Mellon has called for urgent action to begin implementing the recommendations of a new report into how the justice system deals with cases involving serious sex offences.
The review was conducted by retired judge John Gillen following concerns sparked by the high-profile trial of former Ulster Rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. The report endorses about 250 changes, with 16 described as ‘key recommendations’.
She said: “While the level of reporting of sexual offences has increased over the last year, it is still unacceptably low.
“Reporting a rape or a sexual assault can be an extremely traumatic and difficult experience.
“For those who do report to the police, the victim can often be subject to a humiliating and traumatic experience both in and before the courtroom which, coupled with mass delays in the criminal justice system, often leads to the abandoning of complaints and low conviction rates.
“Sinn Féin responded to the preliminary report and met with John Gillen in February. We welcome the delivery of the final report and its recommendations.
“The major problems with the criminal justice system in sexual offence trials have been identified for many years. Following John Gillen’s recommendations, all parties and agencies must get to work immediately to ensure these recommendations are implemented and the procedure surrounding serious sexual offences is updated.
“Victims have been let down by the system for too long, and I’m hopeful that this report will be the first stage in ensuring that victims are supported and that justice is no longer impeded for victims.”