Bateman bill would require law enforcement notification when sex abuse is suspected

TRENTON – In the wake of the two recent scandals of sex abuse allegations involving Penn State and Syracuse universities, Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, (R-16), Somerville, said that he will introduce legislation Thursday to require witnesses of child sexual abuse to notify law enforcement officials.

“In both cases, adults knew that the abuse was occurring yet they failed in their moral duty to take the appropriate steps to end the abuse,” Bateman stated in a release. “When my bill passes witnesses will no longer have that decision. They will be required to notify law enforcement authorities of these obscene violations.”

The legislation would require any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to an act of sexual abuse to immediately report it to law enforcement officials. It also would make failing to report an act of sexual abuse a crime of the fourth degree. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years and a fine of no more than $15,000, or both.

In the Penn State and Syracuse cases, assistant coaches have been implicated in alleged crimes going back many years.  Bateman’s bill stems in part from reports that school officials were  informed of the allegations but did not notify law enforcement.

Text of proposed legislation:

An Act concerning child abuse and amending P.L.1971, c.437.

Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

1. Section 3 of P.L.1971, c.437 (C.9:6-8.10) is amended to read as follows:

[Any] a. Except as provided in subsection b. of this section any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or acts of child abuse shall report the same immediately to the Division of Youth and Family Services by telephone or otherwise. [Such reports,]

b. Any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to an act of sexual abuse as defined in section 1 of P.L.1992, c.109 (C.2A:61B-1) or any sexual offense as defined in chapter 14 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes shall immediately report the act or offense to law enforcement officials.

c. Reports made pursuant to subsections a. and b. of this section, where possible, shall contain the names and addresses of the child and his parent, guardian, or other person having custody and control of the child and, if known, the child’s age, the nature and possible extent of the child’s injuries, abuse or maltreatment, including any evidence of previous injuries, abuse or maltreatment, and any other information that the person believes may be helpful with respect to the child abuse and the identity of the perpetrator.

(cf: P.L.1987, c.341, s.4)

2. Section 7 of P.L.1971, c.437 (C.9:6-8.14) is amended to read as follows:

7. [Any] a. Except as provided in subsection b. of this section any person knowingly violating the provisions of this act including the failure to report an act of child abuse having reasonable cause to believe that an act of child abuse has been committed, is a disorderly person.

b. Any person who knowingly fails to report an act of sexual abuse or any sexual offense pursuant to subsection b. of section 3 of P.L.1971, c.437 (C.9:6-8.10) against a child and who has reasonable cause to believe that an act of sexual abuse or the sexual offense has been committed is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

(cf: P.L.1971, c.437, s.7)

3. This act shall take effect immediately.

STATEMENT

This bill requires a person who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been sexually abused to immediately report that abuse to law enforcement officials. A person’s failure to report sexual abuse is a fourth degree crime under the bill.

Under current law, a person who has reasonable cause to believe that an act of child abuse, including sexual abuse, has been committed is required notify the Division of Youth and Family Services. Failure to report abuse to the division is a disorderly person’s offense. This bill ensures that law enforcement officials are immediately notified in instances where sexual abuse has occurred, and that the failure to report sexual abuse results in an enhanced criminal penalty.

The penalty for a disorderly persons offense is a term of imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The penalty for a fourth degree crime is imprisonment for 3 to 5 years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. A third degree crime is punishable 5 to ten years imprisonment, a fine of up to $150,000, or both.

Requires that sexual abuse against a child be reported to law enforcement officials

 

Bateman bill would require law enforcement notification when sex abuse is suspected