Community Issues

Pa. House Passes Tougher Penalties for Failing to Report Child Abuse

Reforms follow Grand Jury investigation into clergy abuse.

Lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House overwhelmingly passed harsher penalties on people who fail to report suspicions of child abuse.

The proposal passed 162 to 22. Representatives also unanimously passed a bill that explicitly states that non-disclosure agreements do not and cannot prevent people from talking to police in child molestation investigations. These agreements are common when settling civil suits.

The Associate Press reports lawmakers are also considering eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse as well as the statute of limitations for mandated reporters who fail to properly report ongoing abuse.

"The PA House of Representatives has now passed all four of the reforms recommended last August by a Grand Jury investigating child sexual abuse and cover up in the Catholic church," Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement.

The Grand Jury report identified more than 300 clergy members accused of abuse involving thousands of victims, with some cases dating back decades.

"Just as our Commonwealth was a leader in investigating and prosecuting clergy sexual abuse, it is imperative that Pennsylvania also now be a leader in enacting reforms to protect victims and ensure this kind of abuse and cover-up can never happen again," Shapiro said

The bills now head to the Senate, where if they are approved, they will be sent to Governor Tom Wolf's desk to be signed into law.

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