For Immediate ReleaseGov. John Lynch today urged members of the House Criminal Justice Committee to support legislation, which he proposed, to give New Hampshire among the toughest and most comprehensive child protection laws in the nation.
"People who prey on children are the most dangerous criminals in our state, targeting our most precious and our most vulnerable citizens. Children need protection, and New Hampshire parents need help keeping their children safe. With your support for this bipartisan legislation, we will have among the toughest and most comprehensive laws in the nation protecting our children against sexual predators," Gov. Lynch said.
"It's time to send for us to send a clear message: If you prey on children in New Hampshire, we will send you to prison - and we're going to keep you there for a long time," Gov. Lynch said.
Gov. Lynch worked with the Attorney General, police chiefs, county prosecutors, victims' advocates and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers to develop HB 1692, sponsored by Rep. Peter Batula and Sen. Joe Foster.
"In developing this legislation, I had several goals - to protect the young victims of these crimes; to deter criminals from committing these acts; to ensure that sexual predators received the tough penalties they deserve; and to lessen the chance of sexual offenders preying on new victims," Gov. Lynch said.
Under the legislation's 28 provisions, prosecutors will be able to seek a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years for someone who molests a child under the age of 13; a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in the most egregious child assault cases with permanent injuries; and a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years for the second-degree murder of a child. A second offense in any of these cases would be subject to a sentence of life in prison without parole.
In addition to the new sentencing provisions, the legislation also:
- Allows for civil commitment of sexual predators who have been convicted, found not guilty by reason of insanity, or found incompetent to stand trial.
- Requires the Department of Corrections to implement a GPS monitoring system of sexual offenders by July 1, 2008.
Increases the number of offenders who will be required to register.
- Enable local communities to prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare facility or park where children regularly gather.
- Requires offenders to register more often, and report their work addresses and descriptions of their cars.
- Increases penalties for failing to register.
- Creates new penalties for people who interfere with the registration of a sexual offender.
- Requires the Department of Safety to verify offenders' addresses.
In a letter to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee today, Gov. Lynch also expressed strong support for legislation facilitating the development of multidisciplinary child protection teams and Child Advocacy Centers as an important complement to the efforts of the child protection legislation.
"We need to do everything we can to prevent child abuse and neglect. We also need to ensure that children who have been victimized are given the best possible environment and surroundings in which to make reports, receive counseling, obtain medical treatment and learn about prevention," Gov. Lynch wrote. "We have learned that an uncoordinated approach to investigation and treatment can often cause our children more difficulty and confusion."
The child protection teams and Child Advocacy centers will help ensure coordination between the Department of Health and Human Services, law enforcement officers, medical practitioners, mental health specialists and social service providers. SB 370 would allow these agencies to develop written protocols for multi-disciplinary child protection team investigations.
"This legislation will ensure coordination between the to facilitate the most helpful treatment, in the right environment, which minimizes the potential for any further trauma to children," Gov. Lynch wrote.