HARRISBURG – Crime victims would be guaranteed access to court proceedings under legislation sponsored by Rep. John Hershey (R-Franklin/Juniata/Mifflin) and passed with overwhelming approval by the House today.
House Bill 502 would ensure victims have the right to attend proceedings unless a judge determines the victim’s testimony in proceedings could be affected by what he or she hears.
Currently, the prosecution, defense or judge can request a witness or victim be excluded from court proceedings, preventing this person from hearing testimony from other witnesses.
The bill would require that any exclusion be stated in the court record.
“Victims need to be an active part of the court process not only to stay apprised of what is happening in their case, but also to work toward healing and closure. This bill guarantees victims can face their abusers,” Hershey said.
The bill is part of a legislative package designed to better protect crime victims from abuse and violence by helping those who are victimized to testify against and confront defendants. The three other bills in the package would help additional child victims of sexual or other violent crimes testify against their perpetrators, ensure that a rape victim’s prior sexual assaults or other acts of victimization cannot be used to attack the victim’s character, and provide greater protections for victims who have autism and/or disabilities.
House Bill 502
now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Representative John Hershey
82nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jennifer Fitch