A new Sexual Offences Bill “will bring clarity to consent”, interim Justice Minister Simon Harris has promised.
Minister Harris detailed a number of ways in which the Government planned to tackle violence against women - with consent a key priority.
Courts are often asked to decide whether a defendant had consent for their actions – and Minister Harris said the new legislation would fundamentally change the way they consider the issue.
“It won’t be enough to believe you had consent, you will have to demonstrate why you thought you had consent,” he told The Pat Kenny Show.
“We do have to be very clear that the issue of consent doesn’t disappear in any way, shape or form at certain times of the night or after certain social gatherings.
“We’ll tease through the detail of how legally to do this best in the legislation but what we’re trying to do here is to make it very clear that you will have had to take objective steps to actually show that you had consent.
“In other words, I’d have to be able to demonstrate to you the reasons why I had consent. It’s not just enough to believe you had consent, you have to show me why you thought you had consent.
“That sounds quite sensible to me.”
Last year, Justice Minister Helen promised “zero tolerance” for violence against women and Minister Harris said there would be “real, concrete, meaningful actions” in the coming months.
“Between now and the summer, I intend to pass legislation that will double the maximum sentence for an adult causing serious harm from five years to 10 years,” he said.
“People will know that one of the most common forms of crime arising from domestic violence is assault causing harm.
“It will apply in general to assault causing harm but it so happens that it can be a major feature of domestic violence.
“So, we’ll get that passed and enacted by the summer.”
The new legislation will make stalking and non-fatal strangulation standalone criminal offences and the courts will be able to electronically tag sex offenders for the first time.
Minister Harris cautioned that tackling gender inequality was not something the Department of Justice could do on its own.
“Of course, if we’re to bring around real societal change it involves much more than just the Department of Justice," he said.
"[It is also about] sex ed in schools, how we tackle the misogynistic culture in our country - social media and Andrew Tate - for instance, being a big source of conversation.”
Main image: Simon Harris.