Padden human-trafficking bill becomes law

Measure will aid prosecution of crimes against children

At Friday’s bill signing, Gov. Jay Inslee is joined by Padden session intern Dagny Ahrend, Padden session aide John Jourdan, Russ Brown, executive director of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Tim Heffer and wife Meg, representing Shared Hope International, and Sen. Padden.

OLYMPIA – A new law will make it easier for prosecutors to obtain convictions in human trafficking crimes against children, following approval by Gov. Jay Inslee Friday.

In a ceremony Friday, the governor signed SB 5885, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley. The new law allows courts to accept out-of-court statements from children under age 16 in cases involving human trafficking.

Padden said the new law will spare children the trauma of having to testify in open court. Many have suffered extreme sexual abuse and injury. In some cases, they have been sold into sexual slavery by their own relatives. And many have no fixed address and are difficult to locate when court hearings occur.

“To force these children to testify in open court is to reopen the wound,” Padden said. “Washington already recognizes this problem, by exempting children under age 10 from the state’s hearsay rule. But older children are the ones most likely to be affected by human trafficking crimes, and they face the same difficulty confronting their abusers in court.

“By allowing prosecutors to present out-of-court statements from victims under age 16, we make it easier to obtain convictions for this most reprehensible crime.”

During committee hearings, the measure received strong support from the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and from Shared Hope International, a non-profit organization that advocates stronger human trafficking laws. Former Congresswoman Linda Smith, director of the organization, was among those who testified for the bill.