PPS launches public consultation on draft Policy for Prosecuting Sexual Offences

11 February 2022

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has opened a consultation on its draft Policy for Prosecuting Sexual Offences and is seeking views particularly from anyone with expertise or experience in this important area, including victims and the groups that represent them. You can read the draft policy and respond to the consultation by clicking the appropriate links.

The launch comes during Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week (7th to 13th February 2022), when people and organisations come together to highlight the stark reality of sexual violence, challenge commonly held myths and reinforce that #ItsNotOk.

Ciaran McQuillan, Head of the PPS Serious Crime Unit, which handles rape and serious sexual offences cases, said: “Today we in the PPS are launching our Sexual Offences Policy for consultation. Working on these cases every day, we are acutely aware of the devastating impact sexual offences have on victims, their families and the wider community.

"They are also some of the most complex offences that the PPS and the wider criminal justice system deal with and are amongst the most serious offences a defendant can face. Our team of highly experienced and dedicated prosecutors is committed to working with all our criminal justice partners and stakeholders to improve how these cases are handled across the system.

 “Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week gives us the opportunity to highlight this draft policy, which sets out in a clear and transparent way our approach to these cases. It is intended to help victims, our criminal justice partners, stakeholders, and the wider public to better understand the different stages of the prosecution and trial processes, including how we take decisions and the information and support available for victims. It covers issues including consent, sexual offences myths and the measures available to help victims and witnesses give their best evidence.

“We know that there are a wide variety of organisations and individuals with knowledge and experience in this area. We welcome their scrutiny and feedback on this important area of our work and would encourage all interested parties to give their views on this policy. The consultation runs for 12 weeks until 6 May 2022 so please have your say.”

Mr McQuillan added: “It takes tremendous courage for victims to speak out about these offences, and we understand how daunting it can be to engage with the criminal justice process. This policy sets out the work we do with police and key partners, including Victim Support NI and the NSPCC, to offer victims support and treat them with sensitivity, fairness and care at all times. All rape and serious sexual offences cases are handled by a team of experienced lawyers. Not only do they understand the legal complexities of these cases, but by working with victims and experts in the area they have also gained important insights to the trauma experienced by victims and understand how to engage sensitively and compassionately.

“Our message to victims is: please continue to come forward and report what has happened to you to police. You will have the benefit of dedicated and professional police and prosecution teams.                                              

“We in the PPS are committed to prosecuting sexual offences robustly and fairly where the Test for Prosecution is met, and to improving the experience of victims as their cases move through the system.”

You can respond to the consultation by visiting the NI Direct consultation hub.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

All PPS decision making is taken in accordance with the PPS Code for Prosecutors.

A copy of the policy can be accessed by clicking the link.

The consultation runs for 12 weeks, closing on Friday 6 May 2022.

Copies of the policy and other formats are also available upon request to: 

Head of Policy & Information
Public Prosecution Service
Belfast Chambers
Chichester Street
Belfast
BT6 8EX

Tel: 028 9089 7100  

E mail: info@ppsni.gov.uk

Media queries:

Media queries for the PPS should be referred to the Communications Unit by emailing ppspressoffice@ppsni.gov.uk inside office hours. The out of hours press officer can be contacted on 07920 418 844.