Statement: Sexual Offences Suspect Anonymity Law Ruled Incompatible with Human Rights and Press Freedom

Sexual Offences Suspect Anonymity Law Ruled Incompatible with Human Rights and Press Freedom

Nexus welcomes the judgement reached on Friday 31st May 2024 by Mr Justice Humphreys regarding sections 12 to 16 of the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022. This judgement acknowledges that granting lifetime, and 25 years post death, anonymity to those accused but not charged with sexual offences, is not in accordance with the law.

It is not acceptable that victims of sexual offences could be jailed if they name their abusers pre-charge. This gags victims who have already had their rights and safety breached through the perpetration of such offences. If introducing this law was based on the misconception that false allegations of rape or sexual abuse is somehow higher than other crimes, then this is flawed. False allegations are no higher for these crimes than any other serious crimes.

In fact, to the contrary, history has taught us that being able to name a perpetrator before they are charged a) can empower other victims of the same perpetrator to come forward, and b) as a result, can produce more evidence which could lead to a successful charge and ultimately a conviction.

Upholding the rights of victims of sexual offences is our priority and we know that Northern Ireland is a small jurisdiction, so it is even more important that media report responsibly and apply the Public Interest test robustly on the limited occasions where they name perpetrators of sexual offences at any stage in the process. They must take precautions to limit the possibility of jigsaw identification of victims.

Nexus is committed to breaking the cycle of sexual abuse and abusive relationships, and breaking the silence which abuse thrives upon is an integral part of this work. Ensuring victims have a voice and are free to speak out, balanced with their right to privacy and anonymity, should be a key priority. 

We hope the Justice Minister now acts to repeal this element of the legislation and that media adhere to robust guidelines in terms of responsible reporting.


Notes to Editors

  • For further information or to bid for an interview please contact the Nexus Communications Team on 07738983590, 07566789933 or 
  • Nexus is Northern Ireland’s leading charity supporting people impacted by sexual abuse and abusive relationships. If you need advice or support, call the 24hr Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline on 0808 802 1414, it is available 24/7 for any individual impacted by domestic or sexual abuse, either directly or indirectly. Webchat and email services are also available The DSA Helpline is hosted by Nexus on behalf of the Departments of Communities, Health, and Justice
Page Reader Press Enter to Read Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Pause or Restart Reading Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Stop Reading Page Content Out Loud Screen Reader Support