The Record: Unsettling ruling

The Record

NO ONE should be surprised that the state Supreme Court this week ruled that individuals cannot be prosecuted for crimes allegedly committed in a foreign country. The unanimous court ruling broke no new ground; it simply reinforced longstanding principles about the sovereignty of individual nations in terms of prosecuting crimes.

Yet the ruling was still unsettling, as the court itself acknowledged, because it related to very serious charges: The alleged sexual abuse of three high school students by two of their chaperones during a 2011 school trip to Germany.

John Molinelli, the Bergen County Prosecutor whose office sought to prosecute the case in New Jersey, called on lawmakers to change the state’s criminal code to remedy the court opinion. And state Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, says he plans to do just that. Nonetheless, it’s hard to see exactly how state legislators can amend a code to allow New Jersey to criminally prosecute sexual offenses allegedly committed in a foreign land.

What the ruling should do is prompt parents and school officials to be more cognizant of the chaperones who accompany students on overseas trips and of the laws governing sexual activity in the nation being visited.

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