A children’s advocacy group wants to limit who can get copies of taped interviews of children who have been sexually abused.
Videotaped interviews of children believed to be victims of sexual abuse are key pieces of evidence for the prosecution and defense in resulting court cases.
Emily van Schenkhof with Missouri Kids First says there is not enough control over what happens with copies of those interviews.
“There’s harm to children that occurs when we’re casual about this.”
Van Schenkhof says in some instances interviews have been uploaded to the internet, given to college students in a mock trial, and a copy has been given to the individual accused of the abuse the child on the video is describing.
“The juxtaposition typically of a very young child talking about sexual things is horrific. The first interview that I ever saw, I wanted to throw up,” said van Schenkhof.
She wants Missouri law to allow defense attorneys to view the videos in a prosecutor’s office, or seek a copy only under court orders including instructions against distributing or copying it.
Missouri Bar President Eric Bergmanis says the concern is real but any law must not conflict with court rulings about defendants’ rights to evidence.
“It’s important that state statutes and Supreme Court rules are clear so that everyone in Missouri gets a fair day in court,” Bergmanis told Missourinet.
Kevin Hillman with the Missouri Prosecutors’ Association shares van Schenkhof’s concern, as well as those of Bergmanis. He says if a law goes too far, it could result in convictions for child sex crimes being thrown out later.
“We want to find the right balance here with protecting the rights of the victims, protecting these folks who have been traumatized … but we want to balance that with the rights of the defendants,” said Hillman. “We’re certainly a stakeholder in this process. We want to work with the Bar and the defense attorneys and the courts, along with the victims’ rights organizations to find a balance here that achieve all our goals.”
Van Schenkhof anticipates legislation would be handled in the Senate by Senator Bob Dixon (R-Springfield) and in the House by Representative Marsha Haefner (R-St. Louis), but no bills have been filed on the matter.
Below, van Schenkhof talks about this issue as well as access to evidence-based mental health services for traumatized children and extension of work that led to passage of SB 341 last year, allowing the state Children’s Division to intervene in cases of children sexually abusing other children (earlier, related story below):