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Bill would limit release of child interviews

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill that aims to protect child victims is on its way to the Senate. House Bill 133 would prevent unintended parties from viewing confidential video testimony.

Legislators and child service groups who worked on the bill felt like she needed to take action, especially after what happened to a Utah girl: She committed suicide after her alleged attacker showed her taped testimony at a viewing party.

"If it's as tragic as what has been presented, we wouldn't want to see that happen again," says Duane Betournay, director of the Utah Department of Child and Family Services.

The specifics of the case remain confidential. Apparently, a teenage crime victim gave video testimony recounting her experience. The tape ended up in her alleged attacker's hands.

Since the defendant was representing himself in court, it was normal procedure to allow him the evidence. But instead of viewing it for his defense preparation, child protective services says he showed it to friends and neighbors at his house.

The victim felt so traumatized and embarrassed she killed herself.

"It is very traumatic. They're reliving that trauma over again," Betournay says. "If they have to relive it in such a defaming way over and over again, it certainly would be emotionally devastating to an individual.

"We needed to take some kind of action to make sure that people who have, and need, access to that material can get it, and otherwise is kept confidential to these kinds of things don't happen," says Rep. Lorie Fowlke, R-Orem.

Fowlke is sponsoring HB 133. Her bill says: "Child victims have the right ... to have their investigative interviews, including video and audio, protected."

The bill also states:"Interviews may not be distributed, released or displayed to anyone without a court order."

That means prosecutors and defenders can obtain a copy. If someone defends themselves and shows it to other people, they'd be charged with a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The bill will now move on to the Senate.


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Nicole Gonzales


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