Sunday, January 5, 2003

Changes pitched to help protect retarded victims

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A state task force has recommended changes in state law to protect mentally retarded and developmentally disabled crime victims.

The 17-member task force, which Gov. Bob Taft established last year, issued its recommendations Friday.

Lorain County Prosecutor Greg White, who led the task force, said many of the suggestions are similar to those resulting from the decision to make child abuse initiatives a priority years ago.

The report notes that research indicates the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled are four to 10 times more likely than people without disabilities to become crime victims. For sexual assault, the risk for the retarded and developmentally disabled is 11 times higher.

The task force recommended allowing mentally retarded victims to testify via videotape, instead of in open court, where they could be intimidated or become afraid. A similar law exists for child victims of certain sex crimes.

The task force also recommended that probate judges, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors cooperate in investigating abuse, neglect and exploitation to reduce stress on victims.

Mr. Taft's spokesman said the governor commended the group and will review all of its ideas in the next few weeks.

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