A bill that would have eliminated criminal and civil statutes of limitation on sex crimes going forward will not be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee next week.
Instead, Autumn Southard, spokeswoman for committee chairman Rep. Ron Marsico, on Friday told PennLive that the Dauphin County Republican planned to introduce his own legislation on Monday. That legislation will likely eliminate criminal statute of limitation, she said.
Southard said changes to the civil components of the law could be part of Marsico’s legislation, but the specifics are not clear. She said committee members were discussing the specifics.
“We’ll know Monday the specifics of that portion of the bill,” she said.
Several bills have been introduced in the state House and Senate to change the statute of limitation laws in child sex abuse cases but they have gone nowhere. Lawmakers supportive of those changes are hoping this latest child sex abuse scandal in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese will be the catalyst they needed to make this change.
Retroactive changes to the law to allow victims who have timed-out of the legal system to seek legal redress are not likely.
PennLive earlier on Friday reported that Marsico was expected to take up HB 655, one of several pending pieces of legislation aimed at reforming the law that impacts victims of sexual abuse. That bill would have eliminated both criminal and civil statutes of limitations going forward.
Rep. Mark Rozzi, a survivor and advocate for victims of sexual abuse, swiftly welcomed the news, although he has vowed to introduce an amendment to broaden the law for adults who were abused as children
“I’m glad that Chairman Marsico is taking the first steps to introduce a bill that could truly put victims on the same playing field as predators,” said Rozzi, a Berks County Democrat. “We know it takes victims of sexual abuse a long time to come forward and report. We know these victims suffer a lifetime. We must do what is right for the children of this commonwealth, past, present and future anything less is justice denied.”
A key sticking point in the ongoing debate over the reform of the law has been the proposed two-year window that would suspend the limitations for that period to allow victims to come forward and seek legal redress.
Hundreds of children were sexually abused over a period of 40 years by priests or church leaders in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, a grand jury investigation has concluded.
Rozzi earlier this week told PennLive that the general consensus among advocates is the two-year window component may be a deal breaker for some lawmakers. Rozzi said advocates want to reform the law and are willing to compromise.
Demands for reform in the law reached high pitch in recent weeks in the wake of a grand jury report that found that hundreds if not thousands of children in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese had been abused for decades by more than 50 priests. Investigators found that church leaders and officials knew about the abuse but concealed it, and continued to assign abusive priests to posts that would give them access to children.
Victims advocates have in recent years, in the wake of three grand jury reports out of the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case, garnered some changes to the law, but they have long been clamoring for additional changes to accommodate victims who fall out of the parameters of the law.
Criminal charges were leveled on three Franciscan Friars who authorities say allowed more than 80 children to be sexually abused by a priest – and put hundreds more in danger at a high school.
Under current law, victims of child sexual abuse are barred from seeking civil action after they reach the age of 30. That leaves out many of the victims from Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown.
Victims can bring criminal charges against offenders until they reach 50 years of age — but only if the victim turned 18 years old after Aug. 27, 2002. The law allows victims older than that to report until their 30th birthday.
Victims and their advocates, have long pointed to Marsico as being one of the key obstacles in getting reform through the Legislature.
Full article with links: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2016/04/statute_of_limitation_reform_m.html