Two candidates for Utah County attorney say victims' rights is a key issue, but they have different approaches to protecting those rights, as well as running the county attorney's office.
Republican Kay Bryson and Democrat C. Robert Collins discussed their positions on crime victim issues last week with members of the Fourth Judicial District Victims' Rights Committee, focusing primarily on child victims of crime.Both Collins and Bryson support creation of a Utah County Children's Advocacy Center, a comprehensive, multidisciplinary facility to meet the needs of child victims of crime.
State law sets forth provisions to minimize effects of court proceedings on child victims and witnesses, both candidates agree.
"I'm supportive of dealing with children as best we can and this (an advocacy center) is a step to it," Bryson said.
Collins called a "one-stop center" a good idea, but also supports use of innovative techniques for aiding child victims, including protective orders and video-taping testimony. Collins said videotaped testimony should be ordered by a court, with both prosecuting and defense attorneys present during taping.
Bryson, on the other hand, prefers to have children testify in court, if capable of doing so. Videotaping testimony should only be done at the right time, under the right circumstances, under the direction of the prosecuting attorney, he said.
Bryson said the county attorney's office can ensure victims are treated with "respect, dignity, courtesy and sensitivity" by hiring staff members with such qualities.
Collins thinks staff members should be trained, monitored and provided with constructive feedback to ensure they treat clients appropriately.
Collins said the county attorney's office "tends to overcharge" perpetrators of crimes and then "play" a plea bargaining game with them.
Ninety percent of the cases handled by the county attorney's office end up being adjusted, Collins said.
Bryson countered that "no one in the Utah County attorney's office overcharges." In some cases charges may be altered based on information gathered through investigation, which continues beyond the first filing of charges.
Bryson said he has a "hands-on" management style, and would be actively involved - on a full-time basis - with the operation of the county attorney's office. Bryson is concerned about the ability of the county to investigate white collar crime, saying the county attorney must have the ability to investigate such crimes.
"No crime touches more people," he said.
Collins said the county attorney's office needs a manager "who knows what he's doing" and is available to people. He thinks some positions in the county attorney's office need to be "depoliticized" - appointed by a knowledgeable committee rather than by the county attorney.