'No Smoke Without Fire': Experiences of Persons Accused of Sexual Offences in Northern Ireland

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Abstract

This poster will display the author’s ongoing PhD research into defendant anonymity for sexual offence cases in Northern Ireland. Under the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 section 12, individuals accused of sexual offences are anonymised until charge in Northern Ireland. This recent amendment gave effect to the earlier recommendations made in the Gillen Report into the Law and Procedures in Serious Sexual Offences in Northern Ireland (2019). The argument of the poster is ultimately that further reform should be considered to extend anonymity until the point of conviction, to provide protection for those who are accused and subsequently acquitted. Utilising a theoretical framework of stigma and shame and drawing on qualitative interviews, the poster sets out the potential consequences experienced by individuals as a result of being accused of sexual offences. The proverb, ‘no smoke without fire’, and negative public perception of sexual offences means an allegation of sexual offending can be uniquely stigmatising, even in the absence of criminal conviction. As a result, qualitative interview data shows effects including economical, physical, and psychological harms to those accused, that may be avoided if the identity of the accused person is withheld until the conclusion of the trial process.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2024
EventAnnual Socio-Legal Studies Association 2024 - Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Mar 202428 Mar 2024

Conference

ConferenceAnnual Socio-Legal Studies Association 2024
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityPortsmouth
Period26/03/202428/03/2024

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