Reflections on the Gillen Review into the law and procedures in serious sexual offences in Northern Ireland

Dowds, E. (Presenter)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Following the acquittal of two high-profile Ireland and Ulster international rugby players, Patrick Jackson and Stuart Olding, in what has become known as the ‘Belfast Rugby Rape Trial’, Northern Ireland has had its own ‘collective #metoo moment’. The day after the acquittal huge crowds gathered nationwide for #IBeliveHer solidarity rallies to express frustration at the treatment of rape victims within the criminal justice system.

While Northern Ireland, like many countries, is no stranger to criticism in this area, the high-profile nature of this trial, conducted over nine weeks and ending on 28th March 2018, triggered the launch of an independent review into how the criminal justice system handles sex crimes, led by former Lord Justice of Appeal, the Right Honourable Sir John Gillen. The Review formally commenced in May 2018 and, in November 2018, Sir John Gillen published a preliminary report containing over 200 recommendations for public consultation.

The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the review and the recommendations made therein, as well as the issues raises by those who responded to the review either through written submissions or attendance at outreach events organised by the Gillen Review Team. It will explore the tensions raised by the review in relation to the rights of the accused and those of the complainant, in particular issues of anonymity, as well tensions relating to transparancey, the principle of open justice and public attendance at trials for serious sexual offences. While the review makes an extremely important intervention the paper will conclude by considering the practicalities of implementation in a jurisdiction where there is no functioning executative.
Period03 Apr 201905 Apr 2019
Event titleSLSA Annual Conference: null
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionRegional