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Bishops back bill for future sex-abuse prosecution cases

Mar 6, 2006 | AP

As state lawmakers consider whether to allow victims of childhood sex abuse to sue over cases from 30 and 40 years ago, they’re also deciding whether to get rid of a time limit for prosecuting child molesters from now on.

Currently, victims of childhood sex abuse have until they turn 33 to sue the alleged abuser and until age 28 to pursue criminal charges.

Victims advocates say that such statutes of limitations favor abusers because they can make their young victims afraid to ask for help and those victims may only come to terms to what happened to them when the current deadlines have passed.

Rep. Rosemary Marshall and Sen. Paula Sandoval want to lift those limitations on criminal prosecutions for any abuse that occurred after July 1, 1996. Cases that occurred before that date could still be prosecuted under the bill as long as the statute of limitations won’t be reached by July 1, 2006. The measure (House Bill 1088) also originally would have done away with the statute of limitations for future civil lawsuits but that has now been eliminated.

Colorado’s three Catholic bishops announced Friday that they support the amended proposal, which is set to be reviewed Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bishops oppose another bill (Senate 143) sponsored by Senate President Joan Fitz- Gerald which would open the church and other private institutions to lawsuits over old sex abuse cases because government institutions, like public schools, wouldn’t be open to the same kinds of lawsuits. State law protects government agencies from being held liable for more than $150,000 per claim although they sometimes can be sued in federal court under civil rights law.

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