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'Blow' for victims as 12 quashed sex cases will not return to court

Only three out of 15 sexual offence convictions cancelled due to a legislative error will be retried

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Prosecutors have said they will only proceed with three new cases after cancelling 15 sexual offence convictions

Prosecutors have said they will only proceed with three new cases after cancelling 15 sexual offence convictions

Prosecutors have said they will only proceed with three new cases after cancelling 15 sexual offence convictions

A decision by prosecutors in Northern Ireland to bring just three new cases after cancelling 15 sexual offence convictions has been described as "a bitter blow" for victims.

The convictions against 15 individuals, involving 17 victims, were reconsidered following a legislative error.

This happened after prosecutors became aware of a technical change to the law in 2009, meaning certain types of sexual offences could no longer be prosecuted in the Magistrates Court, and could only be dealt with by the Crown Court.

The cases involved 14 victims where the offence was indecent assault against a female, one indecent assault on a male and two further cases for the offence of unlawful carnal knowledge.

Public Prosecution Service (PPS) Assistant Director Ciaran McQuillan began the review process in October, with extensive efforts made to engage with the victims.

It was concluded that of the 15 cases, just three met the test for prosecution in the Crown Court which will now be brought forward.

Reacting to the news, Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon said: "Today's outcome will be a bitter blow to those victims who have already suffered the extremely traumatic experience of going through proceedings in the first place only to see the convictions being rescinded."

She said sexual offence cases were already "notoriously difficult" to get to court, and said the decision for the victims involved was "horrendous and likely deeply traumatic".

"The Department of Justice must do all that they can to provide the greatest possible support to these victims and should now explore how to provide redress to these victims where necessary and appropriate," she said.

"It is absolutely vital this situation is extensively investigated to ensure that never again are victims let down so badly by the justice system."

Mr McQuillan thanked the victims for their positive engagement in the process, and said the public should still have the confidence to report crimes.

"I can assure all victims that a sensitivity to their views and the experience they had gone through was at the forefront of my mind," he said.

"The process to review these cases has now concluded and involved an application of the Test for Prosecution. This involved careful consideration of whether the available evidence provided a reasonable prospect of conviction and whether prosecution was in the public interest."

All of the victims and defendants have been informed of the outcome in their individual case.

In all of the cases, the defendants had already been prosecuted and sentenced.

This resulted in one defendant serving a prison sentence and others being subject to suspended sentences or completing probation or community service orders.

The decision not to prosecute in the 12 remaining cases were taken on public interest grounds, the PPS said.

Mr McQuillan further explained that a number of victims did not wish to see new prosecutions, while others were supportive.

He also recognised the "deep disappointment" felt by those who did not get their wish of a new prosecution.

Belfast Telegraph


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