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Virginia Crime Commission Backs Legislation To Help Prosecute Child Abuse

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The Virginia State Crime Commission is recommending a package of legislation that would provide authorities with additional tools to investigate and prosecute child sexual abuse. The proposals follow a lengthy study that revealed the difficulties that law enforcement and Child Protective Services encounter as they investigate allegations of abuse.

The members recommended multi-disciplinary teams, extending investigation times to 90 days, and retaining records of unfounded complaints for three years. Commission Legal Director Stewart Petoe said that helps with subsequent allegations.

"When sometimes CPS is doing an investigation, and it's just over a year, like 14 months or 15 months, it would be very helpful for them to be able to go and take a look at records to see if there's a pattern behavior, all the contact information, and other relevant information," Peteo says. "So CPS would not have to start from scratch."

Also approved was Del. Rob Bell's proposal to admit prior convictions as evidence.

"We're going to say if you have been previously convicted of a sex act, especially a sex act against a child, we're going to bring that into the case for the new sex crime just because we think it's valid evidence in terms of whether or not the person did it or not," Petoe says.

The members also agreed that CPS employees must be trained before they have the authority to make decisions about complaints.

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