The restoration of the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland has had a spectacular impact on its legal sector. We have already reported on how the much anticipated Redress Board was up and running with High Court Judge, A Colton appointed as president. Last week also saw the first call of new QC’s to the Bar of Northern Ireland; a move held up by the lack of the Executive.
The new Justice Minister has now confirmed that she is to implement legislation to mirror the domestic abuse legislation activated in England & Wales in 2015 and in Scotland in 2019. The proposed Domestic Abuse Bill is currently with the legislative drafters and it is hoped that the final document could be brought forward within the next few months and with the co-operation of the parties and full Executive it is hoped that the Bill could be introduced by April or May 2020.
It is suggested that the new Bill will make it an offence for anyone to engage in a course of abusive behaviour (this is likely to mean abusive behaviour on at least two occasions) against someone they are personally connected to. Of course the extent of the cover and the possible restrictions in application will need to be assessed in the final draft.
It is thought that further amendments such as the implementation of the recommendations of retired Appeal Court Judge Sir John Gillen on the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences will take longer to be considered in full and for decisions to be made on the implementation of any of those. Those recommendations are far reaching and will involve a significant change in some areas of the criminal process and so it is going to require more thought and consultation with stakeholders before any proposals are brought forward.
Progress is however, now being made.
Written by Ciara McReynolds at BLM