New laws granting anonymity to people suspected of committing sexual offences until they are charged have come into force in Northern Ireland.
Those not subsequently charged will have anonymity for their lifetime and for 25 years after their death.
Members of the public will also be banned from attending serious sex offences trials, under the changes.
Only people required to be there for the effective functioning of proceedings, and representatives of the press, will be allowed to attend crown court trials.
In addition, lifelong anonymity for victims of sexual offending will be extended until 25 years after the victim has died.
The Department of Justice in Northern Ireland has announced the changes, which implement recommendations made by Sir John Gillen in his review of existing laws.
Sir John said the prospect of a trial in a packed courtroom was a factor in deterring victims of serious sexual attacks from engaging with the criminal justice system.
He said the legislation builds on “progressive changes” already implemented by the department, including the provision of independent sexual offence legal advisers for all complainants, remote evidence centres and fast-tracking for cases involving children.
Sir John said: “One of the most unforgiving consequences of a complainant coming forward in a serious sexual offence has been the utter humiliation of being obliged to recite the most intimate and distressing details of their experiences before, potentially, a packed courtroom.
“It was one of a number of factors deterring victims from engaging in the criminal justice process in the context of sexual attacks. That particular fear has now been removed.”
Richard Pengelly, permanent secretary at the Department of Justice, said he hoped the reforms would enable victims to have greater confidence in the criminal justice system.
He said: “Sir John’s review concluded that the unrestricted access of the public to trials of serious sexual offences humiliated and intimidated complainants, and deterred victims of sexual crimes from reporting them to the police.
“The exclusion of the public from court in these cases is an important step in giving greater protection and support to victims.
“I hope that all these measures will enable victims to have greater confidence in the criminal justice system and that, rather than suffer in silence, they will feel able to report when they have been the victim of a sexual offence, knowing that these further protections are in place.”