March 15, 2006

No limits to justice

Boston Globe

March 15, 2006

THE SEXUAL ABUSE scandal has faded from the headlines, but the arrest of a Maynard teacher is a reminder that abuse is hard to eradicate, and difficult for victims to acknowledge. The Massachusetts Legislature needs to make these cases easier to prosecute by lifting the statute of limitations for the crime of sexually abusing children.

Under current law, suspects cannot be prosecuted 15 years after the accuser reaches age 16. Using that standard, the Rev. John Geoghan was not prosecuted for any abuse in the 1970s and 1980s. He was finally put in prison for fondling a boy in the early 1990s. The Rev. Paul Shanley would not have been liable for his crimes at St. Jean's parish in Newton in the 1980s. He was prosecuted only because he had left the state in 1992. The statute of limitations is suspended in such cases.

Martha Coakley, the Middlesex district attorney, originally favored keeping the statute. She has changed her mind in light of her experience in prosecuting these and other cases since the abuse scandal involving the Archdiocese of Boston broke open four years ago. ''It takes a long time for the victims to come forward," Coakley said in a telephone interview, ''sometimes 30 or 40 years."

Posted by kshaw at March 15, 2006 08:23 AM