FRANKFORT, KY. (Jan. 13, 2016) – Attorney General Andy Beshear is calling on lawmakers to pass legislation to aid prosecutors in combating repetitive sex crimes against Kentucky’s children and most vulnerable adults.
House Bill 109 (Rep. Joni Jenkins, of Shively) and its companion measure, Senate Bill 60 (Sen. Whitney Westerfield, of Hopkinsville), would close a legal loophole by creating a Continuous Course of Conduct law that will allow children and vulnerable adults to testify to a pattern of abuse without being penalized for not remembering the exact date and place the abuse occurred.
“We must close this loophole to secure justice for our children and vulnerable adults and to remove pedophiles and sex abusers from our neighborhoods,” Beshear said.
Beshear testified today on HB 109 before the House Judiciary Committee, which passed the measure to the full House chamber.
The loophole was created in the Kentucky Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Ruiz vs. Commonwealth of Kentucky, where the court overturned the convictions of a man accused of sexually assaulting his six-year-old stepdaughter multiple times over a five-month period. Kentucky’s highest court ruled that the lack of a Continuous Course of Conduct precluded a conviction based on the evidence.
“The impact of this case has been devastating on our most vulnerable citizens,” Beshear said. “That is why since the Ruiz decision, our office has worked with Rep. Jenkins to find a legislative solution that takes into account the ways that children experience and recall sexual abuse. The reality is that it is difficult for victims, especially children, to differentiate the assaults by time or place because they occur with such horrific frequency and in the same setting. This is especially true in children, whose ability to place events in time and recall dates does not develop until middle childhood.”
Beshear is calling on lawmakers to join other states in enacting a Continuous Course of Conduct law in Kentucky.
With closing this legal loophole, Beshear said, “The law will still require juries to find beyond a reasonable doubt that two or more acts of abuse have occurred, but we will not be hampered from bringing cases just because the child cannot accurately testify to the exact date of the offense.”
Gretchen Hunt, director of the AG’s Office of Victims Advocacy, said closing this loophole would be a major step forward for Kentucky in preventing and prosecuting those who would harm children and vulnerable adults.
“Research has shown that even when children cannot recall the dates that the abuse occurred, they can provide testimony about the abuse itself that is highly accurate and credible,” Hunt said. “The Attorney General is pushing for a real solution in this gap in justice for our most vulnerable.”
Hunt reminds all Kentuckians to report any suspected abuse of a child or vulnerable adult to 877-KYSAFE1 (597-2331). “And if you or someone you know has been a victim of crime, contact the Office of Victims Advocacy at 502-696-5320 for information about your rights.”