Reaching this stage allows for work to progress on implementing reforms to the process of court committal; removing some avoidable delay in the current system and reducing the impact of giving oral evidence on victims and witnesses.
Naomi Long said:
“This marks a significant step in bringing much needed changes to the committal process. Work to implement the changes is now moving forward as a matter of priority.
“Since my appointment as Justice Minister, I have focused on ensuring that our laws offer the best protection they can to the most vulnerable in our society.
“These long awaited provisions will make a tangible difference to the experience had by the most vulnerable victims and witnesses who come into contact with the justice system and aid in our mission to reduce avoidable delay and the impact it can have.
“The first phase, which is planned for implementation in September 2022, will mean that for new cases brought forward from this point, no victim or witness can be put on the stand to be examined and cross-examined in a committal hearing before the actual trial.
“In tandem, my Department is also working towards implementing the second phase of this programme of work. This will allow cases involving some of the most serious offences to bypass a traditional committal hearing and go directly to the Crown Court.
“Provisions in this second phase are expected to require a longer lead in time to implement, however every effort will be made to do so as expediently as possible. I have asked my officials to work towards an implementation date in early 2024.”