In Our Opinion: Statute of Limitations for Molesters Is Intolerable
April 14, 2016
“Statutes of limitations,” according to Lawyers.com, “are laws that set time limits on how long you have to file a ‘civil’ lawsuit, like a personal injury lawsuit, or how long the state has to prosecute someone for committing a crime.”
As far as we are concerned, the New York state Legislature doesn’t know a statute of limitations from the Statue of Liberty.
There are certain people who have committed atrocities for which there should be no statute of limitation. Among these are murderers, rapists and Auschwitz prison guards.
And, oh yes, child molesters.
In 2006, New York enacted a law eliminating the criminal statute of limitations on felony sex offenses. But our state is among the worst in the country when it comes to allowing civil cases against those who prey on children.
New York law requires that a victim has only five years after the age of 18 to bring charges against a molester or any agency or organization that should have reported what happened.
In a recent letter to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called for doing away with that ridiculous restriction and for the provision that requires victims to file their intent to sue within 90 days of an incident to retain the right to sue public school systems or other government institutions.
The Democratic Party-controlled Assembly is resisting change because of its ties to the teachers unions. In the Republican-led state Senate, lobbying by the Catholic Church and ultra-religious Jewish organizations are helping to keep a bill from passing.
Senate Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester County said: “I would be happy to see people prosecuted for raping a child, certainly. Clearly, with heinous crimes such as that, having a statute of limitations that allows people who have victimized children to get away I think is really horrendous.”
Well, we’re glad someone thinks that letting predators off scot-free is a bad thing, but sadly, the Legislature gets all caught up in interest groups and details.
A bill before it would legalize lawsuits against private schools and other institutions but not public ones. That makes no sense at all. A child molested in a public school is just as wronged as one in a private one.
“This bill would waive that time period for one year, allowing any lawsuit claiming sexual abuse at any time in history to be filed against any party — with one very big exception, wrote the New York State Catholic Conference last year about similar legislation. “The (bill) selectively targets private organizations — religious groups, private schools, nonprofits and businesses.”
The current bill’s Assembly sponsor, Margaret Markey, D-Queens, said in an op-ed in The Daily News: “New York’s statute of limitations protects the wrong people. It gives a free pass to predators and those who hide them, but most often denies justice to their victims.”
We have reached the limit — or, if you will, limitations — of our patience with this heinous situation. Here is what needs to happen, but almost assuredly won’t. The Legislature should simply pass a law that allows not only prosecution but civil suits against any individual or institution culpable for the molestation of children.
And there should be no statute of limitations on any of it. Please tell that to your assemblyman or state senator.