HARRISBURG – The state House Judiciary Committee has approved legislation authored by Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) to support justice in cases where children are victimized.
House Bill 156
would amend the state’s Tender Years Hearsay Act, which permits the introduction of hearsay statements concerning violent or sexual offenses against children. Currently, a victim must be age 12 or younger to enable hearsay statements in the case. Owlett’s bill would increase the maximum age to 16, meaning hearsay statements may be presented from child victims age 16 and under. Allowing the statements would remain at the judge’s discretion.
“It is in everyone’s best interest to ensure justice is served in all cases, but especially those involving our children,” Owlett said. “First and foremost, we need to support the children who have been victimized by allowing them to testify without the undue stress of appearing in court with their offender. If we help them with testifying, we have a better chance of ensuring the offender is taken off our streets where he or she cannot harm other youths in our communities.”
A fear of testifying is one of the primary reasons many sexual assaults go unreported. Child victims in sexual assault cases who do testify are routinely subjected to long periods of cross examination and are often forced to repeatedly describe the explicit details underlying any assault in front of a jury, the media and the offender. By extending the age from 12 to 16 in the Tender Years Hearsay Act, Owlett said the legislation will provide additional protections to child victims and will ensure that offenders are brought to justice.
“This issue was brought to my attention by a local constituent, and I’m proud to have the opportunity to advocate for its passage to help child victims and their families,” Owlett said.
The bill now heads to the House for full consideration. A similar measure was approved by the House last session but was not taken up by the full Senate before the session ended Nov. 30.
Representative Clint Owlett
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia Hippler