Commenting on the draft recommendations published in the Gillen Review, CEO of Nexus NI Karen Gallagher said: “We welcome the publication of the Gillen Review and as an organisation, plan to respond in full to the consultation.
“It is vital to address the gaps that exist in dealing with crimes of sexual violence in Northern Ireland, specifically in the criminal justice system, the impact of social media on any given case and protecting rights of victims at all times. The recommendation that sexual offence trials be closed to the public is also something we welcome as being very positive.
“Dispelling myths and challenging stereotypes is also an issue we are happy to see being addressed. For too long these ideas have been deep-rooted in society and it is something we believe now must be addressed. Fundamentally, the way in which someone is dressed, is not an invitation to be raped or sexually assaulted.
“Victims now getting representation throughout the criminal justice process is something else which we strongly agree with”.
Karen added: “Continued collaboration is needed across statutory agencies and the community and voluntary sector as well as with other service providers to ensure that when victims come forward not only are their voices heard but current obstacles in the criminal justice process are eliminated.
“The number of sexual violence offences reported to the PSNI has reached a worrying 20-year high. According to PSNI’s annual crime statistic’s released earlier this year, a total 3,443 sexual offences were reported in the 12 months to April 2018, the highest in two decades, and triple the number reported in 2000/01.
“These statistics tell a story, there are, in one hand an increase in the number of victims coming forward, however the fact that the percentage of convictions is so low is concerning.
“We look forward to continuing to be involved in the ongoing consultation process and commenting further on publication of the full report during our 35th year in 2019.”