Vulnerable victims protection bill passes Senate committee

01/14/2016 12:59 PM

FRANKFORT – A bill allowing vulnerable victims of abuse to testify about continuing patterns of abuse instead of having to remember specific dates and places where the abuse occurred was unanimously passed by the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Thursday.

Senate Bill 60, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, creates a mechanism for charging a person with the commission of an offense against a vulnerable child or adult victim in a continuous course of conduct.

Westerfield, admits that his previous experience as a prosecutor in Christian County was a big reason for filing the bill to protect vulnerable victims.

“Children who are traumatized by horrific behavior like this need some latitude,” Westerfield said. “They need some have some room to be able to explain when something happened.”

Westerfield pointed out that many victims are targeted by individuals because they are vulnerable, making it harder to obtain a conviction.

“You’re talking about victims of sex offenses, minors, those that have intellectual disabilities, human trafficking victims, and all of those groups of people that need this help,” Westerfield said.

Specifically, the bill allows victims to give more generalized testimony rather than specific times or dates when testifying about offenses against them.

“The jury must simply believe and agree that two or more instances of this conduct happened within a specified range of time,” Westerfield said. “They don’t have to agree on this date or that date, they just have to agree that two or more took place in a range of time. If they do that, that’s enough for a conviction.”

A companion bill, Senate Bill 109, sponsored by Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, passed out of committee on Wednesday and has the support of Attorney General Andy Beshear.

“I don’t care which bill passes, I just want to see it become the law,” Westerfield said.


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