Alliance Party leader and Justice Minister, Naomi Long MLA, has today welcomed the fact that the Justice (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill has finally received Executive approval for introduction, albeit in a reduced form. However, she has stated that the conduct of the DUP over the last 8 weeks has shown a reckless disregard for some of the most vulnerable victims and witnesses in the justice system.
Speaking after Executive agreement was reached Naomi Long said: “The content of the Bill was drafted in line with approval received back in November 2020, yet when I brought the Bill to Executive on 4th May for approval to introduce the Bill into the Assembly, the DUP blocked it repeatedly, despite having no objection to any of the content, solely due to a combination of their own internal divisions and concern that MLAs might seek to amend the bill in ways which they could not control and did not want to deal with ahead of an election.
“In order to achieve clearance for the Bill today, it had to be reframed, removing some important provisions – including some in response to decisions of the Supreme Court – or the entire content would have been lost.
“The DUP’s conduct in respect of this Bill has been both unacceptable and unsustainable in a five party coalition; however, I could not in good conscience, allow 75% of the bill content which included vital legislation to protect victims of serious sexual offences, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking, to be lost. It is far too important.
“Whilst others have prioritised petty party interests in this, I remain solely focused on delivering all that I can for our community. This entire episode, when considered in the context of the ongoing blocking of important legislation from other Ministers, yet again exposes the need for reform of the Executive to prevent such vetoes being exercised in future.”