Virginia lawmakers voted to undo a recent reform that intended to expand public access to certain law enforcement files in closed criminal investigations.
The bill was approved by both the Senate and House of Delegates on Saturday.
According to U.S. News, under the bill, the disclosure of these records to the press or public would no longer be mandatory under Virginia’s freedom of information act. This would make disclosure to be up to the law enforcement agency to determine.
The bill was sponsored by Republican Delegate Rob Bell, who said the bill was intended to protect crime victims and their families by prohibiting the release of sensitive information to the public.
This measure would still require criminal investigative files to be released to victims or their immediate family under some conditions. However, opponents of the bill say overturning the release of these files would reduce transparency and accountability.
The Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys supported the bill. The bill was also supported by the parents of two young women who had been murdered in a high-profile case.
An “international media company” had requested files in the case shortly after the parents declined to participate in a documentary. The mother stated that the media resulted in an additional source of stress on the family during a very difficult time.
The Virginia Press Association and the Virginia Coalition for Open Government opposed the bill, including some relatives of crime victims who believe that the bill will reduce transparency.
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