Northern Ireland

Sir John Gillen report improvements due in 'weeks and months'

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Media captionSir John Gillen has delivered his final report to the Department of Justice

Improvements in how Northern Ireland deals with serious sex offence cases are possible within "weeks and months", according to a retired judge.

Sir John Gillen was speaking after delivering a final report to the Department of Justice.

It follows public consultation on recommendations he made last year, including controls on who attends rape trials, which will now be implemented.

He said 75% of the changes do not require legislation.

His review was launched last year, after former Ulster Rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty of rape at a high-profile trial.

Sir John's final report endorses about 250 changes, with 16 described as "key recommendations".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Stuart Olding (left) and Paddy Jackson were cleared of rape charges after a nine-week trial in Belfast

Public access to trials involving serious sexual offences will be largely confined to close family members of the victim and the accused, although the media will still be allowed in.

Other measures include preventing "improper cross-examination about previous sexual history" and new legislation "to manage the dangers created by social media".

The Department of Justice has now set up a special group to "oversee the implementation of the Gillen Review".

'Groundbreaking report'

It said he had produced a "groundbreaking report".

"I am confident, given the level of public expectation, the department will carry out the thrust of my recommendations in a timely and efficient manner," Sir John said.

"The number of responses I had illustrates the genie is out of the bottle.

"The public are now aware of the flaws in the system. I do not think that the genie can be put back in the bottle."

Image caption Sir John has accepted that some of his recommendations will have to wait until there is an executive at Stormont

Given the absence of a devolved assembly, he accepted there would be a delay in delivering a quarter of what he proposed, but other things "can be done fairly quickly in terms of weeks and months".

Sir John and his review team had contact with more than 200 organisations and individuals to hear first-hand accounts of the criminal justice process.

They also examined systems and processes in 15 countries across Europe, the United States, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

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