21 November 2018
Victims of sexual offences will have greater protection and a clearer pathway to justice when a new law comes into force on Friday [23 November].
Work on the Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 2018, which involved collaboration with organisations including the Women’s Refuge, Brook and the Sexual Assault Referral Centre, has taken more than two years.
The law updates and clarifies the definition of a number of sexual offences including upskirting – the practice of taking unauthorised photographs under a person’s skirt – and female genital mutilation. Victims of any gender will have more protection under the new law, which specifies that sexual offences can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, by a perpetrator of any gender.
Additionally, when an adult commits a sexual offence against a child in their care, the new law gives victims more protection than the UK equivalent. While the UK law, for example, criminalises teachers who abuse their position of trust by committing a sexual offence against a child at the school in which they work, the Jersey law offers protection regardless of school, and extends the law to cover sports coaches – who are not referred to in the UK law.
Another area to be clarified is the issue of consent which, according to the new law, cannot be given if a person is asleep, unconscious or incapable of consenting due to alcohol or any other substance. Furthermore, consent can be taken back at any time before or during the act; if the act still takes place or continues then it does so without consent.
The new law also states that a victim’s sexual history can only be used as evidence if the court has stipulated what facts can be used – ending the current situation in which an attacker who had previous sexual relations with their victim can use this as a defence.
Laura Osmand, co-ordinator of the Sexual Assault Referral Centre at Dewberry House, welcomed the new law: “I am proud that our government has taken action in implementing the new legislation. These types of crime have a devastating impact on all aspects of a victim’s life, and laws must be in place to ensure protection and access to justice. I hope that this new legislation will be a major step forward in challenging the attitudes and behaviours in our society that underpin sexual violence. The law sends out a powerful message that sexual offending is unacceptable and perpetrators will be held to account. Dewberry House is committed to supporting victims by ensuring their voice will always be heard.”
Home Affairs Minister, Connétable Len Norman, commented: “The updated law puts victims first. I would like to thank everyone who took time to respond to the initial consultation when the changes to the law were being identified, and to those who have been working tirelessly to get it right. This law will go a long way to give victims of sexual assault the help and support they need.”
A Guide to Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 2018 has been published in English, Portuguese and Polish, and will be available on gov.je. A States social media campaign, coinciding with the States of Jersey Police’s campaign on rape and consent, will spread the message about the changes to the law.
Training on the new law is being delivered to anyone working with children and vulnerable adults, as well as police, lawyers and those who work in the Magistrate’s and Royal courts.
For more information please see the Sexual Offences Law page which offers guides and definitions on the changes.