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Review to examine how serious sexual offence cases are handled in Northern Ireland

It will look into the impact of social media on trials, among other issues.

Top L-R: Stuart Olding, Paddy Jackson. Bottom L-R: Blane McIlroy, Rory Harrison.
Top L-R: Stuart Olding, Paddy Jackson. Bottom L-R: Blane McIlroy, Rory Harrison.
Image: Getty Images

THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE Board in Northern Ireland has commissioned an independent review of how serious sexual offence cases are handled.

Retired judge Sir John Gillen will lead the review, supported by an advisory panel.

The review, which begins today, is being established to “consider the law and procedure 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 neighbouring jurisdictions”.

The review comes in the wake of much public debate following the nine-week trial of Ireland and Ulster rugby teammates Paddy Jackson, 26, and Stuart Olding, 25. Both men were last month unanimously acquitted by a jury of raping the same woman at Jackson’s Belfast home in June 2016.

Jackson was cleared of a further charge of sexual assault, while their friends Blane McIlroy, 26, and Rory Harrison, 25, were also found not guilty of charges arising from the incident.

The Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby revoked Jackson and Olding’s contracts in the wake of the trial.

Social media and support 

The review is expected to examine the following issues:

  • disclosure of unused material
  • support for victims and witnesses
  • measures to ensure the anonymity of the complainant
  • the arguments for defendant anonymity
  • the impact of social media on trials
  • reporting restrictions
  • public attendance at trials

It is expected that the review will be completed by January 2019.

The Criminal Justice Board provides oversight of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. The board is currently chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Justice and comprises the Lord Chief Justice, the Chief Constable, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and senior officials from the Department of Justice.

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Órla Ryan

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