Upskirting and downblousing to become offences here under new legislation

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Justice Minister Naomi Long

Q Radio News/PA

Upskirting and downblousing are set to become criminal offences in Northern Ireland under new legislation.

The Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill also tackles adults masquerading as children online and strengthens current revenge pornography laws.

The Bill reached its second stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday.

The Assembly returned from its summer recess on Monday

Justice Minister Naomi Long said the legislation “has the protection of victims at its heart”.

“I am determined to do everything I can to ensure victims are heard and that they feel confident in the criminal justice system,” she said.

“This Bill incorporates recommendations from the Gillen Review of serious sexual offences and it also implements elements following a review of the law on child sexual exploitation and sexual offences against children.

“Services for victims of trafficking and exploitation will also be enhanced as a result of this legislation.”

The legislation also includes the exclusion of the public from all serious sexual offence hearings and the introduction of anonymity for defendants before they are charged.

Speaking in the Assembly chamber on Monday, Ms Long outlined a number of amendments agreed by the Executive to be included in the Bill.

These include strengthening current “revenge pornography” laws to include threats to disclose private sexual photographs in order to cause distress; making provisions to ensure consent for serious harm for the purpose of sexual gratification cannot lawfully be given in relation to addressing the use of “the rough sex defence”; and the extension of existing legislation covering an abuse of position of trust of a child to include sports and faith settings.

Ms Long said the legislation is set to make communities safer and introduce additional protections for the most vulnerable.

She also said it “underlines the importance of devolution”, adding she hopes to see the Bill enacted in this mandate.

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