Gov. Matt Mead signed a bill into law on Tuesday that will protect the interviews of children who have been sexually abused.

House Bill 180 closes a loophole that could allow their testimonies used in criminal cases to be used in civil cases.

"Before when we had child victims and they were interviewed, their televised interview could be used potentially in a civil matter," Mead said after the signing at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission building in Casper.

"As a result of that, the child or the parent may want to hold back because in the interview they may be disclosing a thing about either parent or a guardian that could be used in a civil matter," he said.

The bill was sponsored and shepherded through the legislative process by Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, and Rep. Tom Walters, R-Casper, and others.

With the revised law, evidence such as a recorded interviews used in criminal cases can only be used in civil cases if a judge grants an order in a unique circumstance, Mead said. "And so it removes some of the burden and the consideration, and whether parents want to participate or a guardian wants to have their child participate in an interview."

The revised law is important to the work of the Children's Advocacy Project in Casper, which interviews more than 300 children a year, said Kayleigh Corbett, a therapist and forensic interviewer at the agency.

The CAP was getting a lot of subpoenas for recordings of interviews for civil lawsuits, Corbett said. "We would try to quash those subpoenas so that the child interview would remain confidential, and not get into the arena of showing their confidential information of such a sensitive subject of child sexual abuse."

The Children's Advocacy Project brought its concern to lobbyist Mary Lynne Schickich, who worked with the Legislature, she said.

"Now we have a bill to protect these forensic interviews so the children know that when they come to talk about their abuse and that trauma would remain safe and left up to the judge to make the best decision," Corbett said.

The law goes into effect on July 1.

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