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Naomi Long will not appeal against court ruling on sex offenders

Naomi Long will not appeal against court ruling on sex offenders
Naomi Long will not appeal against court ruling on sex offenders

Image description, Naomi Long

  • Author, Jayne McCormack
  • Role, Political correspondent for BBC News NI

Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister Naomi Long will not appeal a court ruling that overturned a law requiring the identification of suspected sex offenders.

Ms Long said she was “inclined” to appeal the ruling on constitutional grounds, but other parties did not share her concerns.

The law, called the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022, came into force in 2023.

It granted suspects who were not accused of sexual offenses lifelong anonymity – and for 25 years after their death.

Media companies had joined forces to have parts of the law declared invalid.

On Wednesday, Ms Long made an urgent written statement to the assembly confirming that she would not appeal the ruling.

She said legal advice had shown her that the ruling would have “significant implications” for the Legislative Assembly’s processes for reviewing its laws, as well as for executive ministers and all departments in implementing legislation.

“These potential impacts go far beyond my ministry or this specific assembly law,” she said.

“Significantly impaired”

The minister said she had also been advised that if no challenge were made in this case, the prospects of any other ministry successfully defending itself at first instance in a similar challenge to the Assembly Act in the future would be “significantly impaired”.

“Any other Supreme Court justice would have to be convinced that the judge was clearly wrong in this case before he could deviate from his reasoning,” she added.

Ms Long said it was for these reasons alone that she had considered the possibility of an appeal.

She wrote to her executive colleagues last week to seek “their views” on the constitutional implications.

“I have indicated that, based on legal advice, I am prepared to challenge the judgment on the constitutional issues alone, but have asked for written responses by 5pm BST on 2 July,” the minister said.

She told the assembly that the reactions of Sinn Féin, the DUP and the Ulster Unionists suggested that these parties did not share her concerns about the wider implications of the ruling.

“Since my only reason for considering an appeal was this far-reaching impact on the Assembly, its departments and ministers, I have decided not to appeal,” she said.

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