Repost from 6 News Richmond.
Virginia lawmakers gave final passage Saturday to a measure that would undo a recent reform intended to expand public access to certain law enforcement files in closed criminal investigations.
Under the bill that both the Senate and House of Delegates approved Saturday, the disclosure of such records to the press and general public would no longer be mandatory under the state’s freedom of information act. Instead, disclosure would again be up to the discretion of the law enforcement agency.
The measure’s sponsor, Republican Del. Rob Bell, said the bill was intended to increase protections for crime victims and their families by prohibiting the public release of sensitive information that might cause additional suffering. But opponents, including some relatives of crime victims, said the changes would reduce transparency and accountability and hinder work on wrongful convictions.
Bell’s measure would still require the criminal investigative files to be released to victims, victims’ immediate family members under certain conditions, and certain attorneys, including those working on post-conviction proceedings or pardons.
The Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys supported the measure, as did the parents of two young women murdered in what became high-profile cases.