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Newly introduced legislation aims to protect crime victims’ rights

By Carlene Coombs - Daily Herald | Feb 5, 2024

Carlene Coombs, Daily Herald

The Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024.

In an effort to better protect the rights of crime victims, Rep. Tyler Clancy, R-Provo, is proposing legislation to improve the criminal justice system for victims of crime and ensure their rights are protected.

The bill seeks to enhance current procedures regarding crime victims’ rights by creating victim rights committees in each judicial district, adding a coordinator to the Utah Council on Victims of Crime, requiring that educational materials be provided to victims of sexual assault informing them of their rights, and setting policies for handling complaints.

The legislation was heard in a House committee Friday evening and passed through with unanimous support, advancing it to the full House body.

Clancy, who’s a Provo police officer, said when helping victims of crime through the justice system, he wants to make sure they are communicating with victims early, often and effectively.

“When I’ve spoken with victims of crime, their life is turned upside down,” the lawmaker told the Daily Herald. “And we want to give them clarity through the process. It’s going to be hard. Moving through the criminal justice process after your life’s been turned upside down, it’s going to be hard.”

The bill adds a “council coordinator” to the existing Utah Council on Victims of Crime who will act as a “point guard,” as Clancy described, with part of their job being to process complaints regarding alleged violations of a victim’s rights.

The legislation lays out the process for the coordinator in handling complaints of a victim’s rights violations and puts the policy for criminal justice agencies in place.

That process includes the coordinator reviewing the complaint to see if it alleges a violation of victim rights, forwarding a complaint to the proper judicial district committee, and communicating with the person who filed the complaint.

Tyler Kotter, chief of investigations with the Utah Department of Public Safety, presented the bill with Clancy and said the current statute is vague and creates frustration — not just for victims, but also for those “trying to do the right thing for victims of crime.”

During the committee meeting, Clancy said that, right now, ensuring victims’ rights are protected is often left to the law enforcement agency working on the case, and he hopes to increase the communication between law enforcement and the Utah Office for Victims of Crime.

“The Utah Office (for) Victims of Crime knows the rights of the victim, and they know how to be an advocate for that victim,” Clancy said. “But law enforcement is the one who has that human-to-human contact with them when someone becomes a victim.”

The legislation also would require the Utah Office for Victims of Crime to provide educational materials to law enforcement agencies on how to inform victims of sexual assault of their specific rights. Right now, Clancy said that the burden of education is often on the local law enforcement agencies and this will “streamline” that process.

“We know that law enforcement is doing good work,” Clancy said. “We know that everyone has an interest in treating victims with respect and dignity. We just want to increase education and expectations so that the family and the victim themselves, they know what to expect going forward.”

A victim rights committee for each judicial district also would be created under the legislation with representatives from police departments, a county or district attorney, the Division of Adult Probation and Parole and a victim advocate.

Rights for crime victims are laid out in portions of the Utah Code and the Utah Constitution, stating things like victims have the right to be “treated with fairness, respect, and dignity” and the right to be informed and assisted through the criminal justice process.


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