RCNI welcomes the forthcoming Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and the newly published General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) and Human Trafficking Bill 2022.
Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill
- We look forward to seeing the details of the proposed new dedicated offence on stalking which acknowledges that the wide range of stalking activities often extends well beyond harassment;
We welcome very much the introduction of a form of civil restraint order which will help protect victims of stalking independently of the criminal justice process, or indeed, any proceedings under the Domestic Violence Act 2018. This is important, as not everyone finds it possible to pursue criminal proceedings and also, not everyone who is a victim of stalking behaviours would be eligible to apply for an order under DVA 2018;
We also welcome non-fatal strangulation offences and the increase in the maximum sentence for assault causing harm as additional measures to help restrain the violence which often accompanies sexual violence in an intimate relationship.
General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) and Human Trafficking Bill 2022
- The introduction of an element of objectivity into the belief of the defendant in the consent of the woman to sexual intercourse – is very welcome. From now on, the belief of an accused person in that consent will not only have to be honest but will also have to be reasonable. This is in line with the recommendation made by the Law Reform Commission when it reported on this issue in 2019 and it is encouraging to see it being enacted;
Also very welcome are the provisions which extend the right to separate legal representation to victims of sexual assault, by far the most commonly charged sexual offence, – and which also extend that right to cover the period of the complainant’s questioning on her other sexual experience;
The extension of the exclusion provisions, under which the court is closed to the public, to victims of sexual assault under Section 6 of the Criminal Law (Rape) Act 1981, is an encouraging initiative;
Finally RCNI is very glad to see the extension of the anonymity provisions to victims of offences under Sections 21 and 22 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 (offences against people with mental illness or disability).