House Judiciary Committee approves Roby, Ratcliffe bills cracking down on child predators

The House Judiciary Committee approved bills this week that U.S. Reps. Martha Roby (R-AL) and John Ratcliffe (R-TX) introduced to enhance penalties for child predators and to protect children abroad from abuse.

Roby introduced the Global Child Protection Act, H.R. 1862, to close loopholes that prevent child predators from being punished for crimes committed overseas, and Ratcliffe introduced the Strengthening Children’s Safety Act, H.R. 1842, to stiffen penalties for sex offenders who fail to register with the national sex offender registry.

“When it comes to protecting children, we must ensure our laws are airtight to prevent predators from facing no consequences for their cruel abuse and exploitation of kids,” U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the chairman of the committee, said. “The bills approved by the House Judiciary Committee (on Wednesday) close several loopholes in current law in order to combat global sex tourism and keep our kids safe from dangerous sex offenders.”

Ratcliffe’s bill would close loopholes in federal child exploitation laws that allow offenders to avoid longer sentences for committing violent crimes under state law while also failing to register as a sex offender. It would also close a legal loophole that that allows sex offenders to avoid facing tougher penalties if previous sex offenses were filed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“As a former federal prosecutor, I will always remember the child exploitation images I was forced to view from an evidentiary standpoint as the most disturbing and difficult part of my job,” Ratcliffe said. “But the images of these horrific crimes against children should stick with us — they should haunt us — and then, they should spur us to action. I’m glad I’ve been able to continue my efforts to strengthen children’s safety as a member of Congress, and I look forward to making ongoing progress in this space.”

Roby’s H.R. 1862 would broaden the definition of “illicit sexual conduct” under federal law to include certain types of sexual contact that are not currently covered. This would enable prosecutors to file charges against individuals who travel overseas to take part in global sex tourism. The bill also seeks to broaden the sentencing code so that all types of contact offenses against children under the age of 12 are treated the same as crimes against those between the ages of 12 and 18.

“Crimes against children are shocking and ugly, which is what makes this subject so hard to talk about sometimes,” Roby said. “There are loopholes in current law allowing child predators to evade punishment for their abuse of children overseas. The Global Child Protection Act aims to close these loopholes and better equip law enforcement to protect children and punish abusers.”