Local Child Porn Case Reinforces Need for Stronger Laws, Penalties, Toepel Says
HARRISBURG – Allegations of child pornography against a local athletic coach again illustrate the need to enhance Pennsylvania’s laws to protect children, said Rep. Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery).

Toepel is the prime sponsor of House Bill 321, now awaiting action in the Senate, which calls for stricter penalties against those convicted of child pornography charges. The bill is modeled after federal sentencing guidelines, which establish greater sentences based upon aggravating factors, such as the age of the child, number of images possessed, and the nature and character of the abuse.

“Children who are exploited for the purposes of making child pornography are victimized over and over and over again. They are victimized each and every time someone downloads and views that image,” Toepel said. “It’s time to ensure the punishment fits the seriousness of the crime.”

Toepel introduced the bill based on recommendations by the Task Force on Child Protection, which was created in response to high-profile sex abuse cases in the Commonwealth. The task force made the recommendation after discovering that sentencing for child pornography offenders varied widely and sometimes amounted to nothing more than probation.

During the first six months of the 2013-14 session, the House has adopted nearly two dozen bills aimed at improving the state’s child protection laws. On the criminal justice side, the proposals deal with the state’s Crimes Code and expansion of and funding for child advocacy centers. The centers offer comprehensive treatment programs for abused children by bringing doctors, nurses, prosecutors, social workers and law enforcement to the child in a safe and nurturing environment. Other bills in the package would enhance criminal penalties for serious bodily injury of a child under the age of 12 and make it a crime to intimidate or retaliate against a witness in child abuse cases.

Among the bills to improve the Child Protective Services system are those designed to strengthen the state’s definition of child abuse, clarify procedures for reporting suspected child abuse, establish additional safeguards and due process with respect to the outcome of a child abuse investigation, remove the separate standards and procedures that exist for school employees accused of abusing a student, enhance background clearance requirements for those who work with children, grow the list of mandated reporters of suspected child abuse while also increasing penalties for failure to report and expand protections from employment discrimination for reports made in good faith.

For additional information about child protection efforts, visit www.RepToepel.com.

Representative Marcy Toepel
147th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Patricia Hippler
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