HARRISBURG – Rep. Clint Owlett’s (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) bill to help ensure justice is served in cases where children are victimized is has been signed into law by the governor.
House Bill 156,
now Act 29 of 2021, 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. The new law increases 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.
“We always want to see justice served, not only for the sake of the victim but also to protect others from being victimized,” Owlett said. “Securing justice can be especially challenging in cases involving child victims because of them having to relive their trauma in front of a courtroom.
“The idea for this law came about because of a local constituent who was concerned enough about the issue to contact me and see what could be done about it. I thank them and am pleased to have had the opportunity to work together to help child victims and their families,” he added.
Owlett noted 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.
The law will take effect in 60 days.
Representative Clint Owlett
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia Hippler