House passes sex offender legislation

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(Host) Legislation that’s designed to reduce the incidence of child sexual abuse in Vermont was given preliminary approval in the House last night.   The vote on the bill was 131 to 2.

The bill is the result of a series of public hearings that were held following the murder of 12 year old Brooke Bennett last summer.

The proposal drafted by the House Judiciary committee is very similar to the one that was passed by the Senate last month.

The legislation creates a new crime, aggravated sexual assault of a minor.  People convicted of this crime will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in jail.

It also includes money for the creation of special investigative units throughout the state and it expands prevention and education programs.

House Judiciary chairman Bill Lippert urged his colleagues to support the bill:

(Lippert) "What I believe is truly a comprehensive bill which will make a difference in Vermont I terms of protecting children and families from what is truly a scourge in our society which is child sexual abuse."

(Host) Lippert says the bill contains many of the themes adopted in the Senate:

(Lippert) "Prevention is the first theme prevention of abuse is far far better than picking up the pieces later the second theme is that we need to continue to fine tune and find ways for effective investigation and prosecution of those crimes when they have occurred."

(Host) The bill makes it very difficult for a defense attorney to interview an alleged victim before a trial and it calls for DNA samples to be taken from all people charged with a felony if the court determines that there’s probable cause to believe that the person is guilty.

The measure is scheduled to come up for final approval in the House today and it’s likely that the House will consider several additional amendments to the legislation.

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