New law would allow later prosecution of molesters - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

New law would allow later prosecution of molesters

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January 28, 2005

Albany-- Representative Len Walker of Loganville introduced a bill to remove the statute of limitations for child molestation. The measure would allow prosecution for molestation at any time, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

When children are molested, it often takes them months, even years to tell someone. "They don't want to destroy the family, hurt the mother," says Beth McKenzie, a child advocate for Opens Arms.

She deals with hundreds of sexually abused child each year. "It's phenomenal how many sexual abuse cases we have."

And child molesters often abuse for years because children don't report the abuse until they're older. "Usually, they tell someone else, a girlfriend and teacher. So this indirect person reports it, and we investigate."

Sometimes, the offender can't be prosecuted because of the statute of limitation. Under current law, a child molestation case must come to trial at least seven years after a child's 16th birthday, and that's only if the police were never notified of the abuse.

But that could change under a new proposed bill. "It would increase our ability to prosecute these types of cases. It's sad as a prosecutor to have to tell these people that there's nothing we can do to help them because of the current status of the law."

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Cohilas support the bill to remove the statute of limitations. "If this statute of limitations is increased for child molestation, it could encourage more people and children to come forward about things that have happened to them. So at least we can protect other children."

McKenzie agrees-- "There's probably more likely than not someone else being abused by that person. So it's not just justice for the victim, but also it can stop the perpetrator from hurting other children."

If the law is passed, child molestation would join murder as the only crimes with no statute of limitations. The bill must be passed by the House, Senate, and signed by the Governor before it becomes law.

posted at 5:15PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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