Democratic gubernatorial candidate Thomas Birmingham on Sunday said Massachusetts should allow child rape cases to be prosecuted no matter how old the allegations.
The Senate president’s proposal follows a similar bill to throw out the state’s statute of limitations on child rape cases. That bill died when lawmakers failed to approve it before the legislative session ended Aug. 1.
“This is one of the most hideous of crimes,” Birmingham said. “Kids who are abused like this often repress memory … it seems sensible in cases like this to abolish the statute of limitations.”
While Birmingham called child sexual abuse an epidemic, he did not directly relate it to the Roman Catholic church’s sex abuse scandal that erupted in Boston earlier this year. About 300 priests have either been dismissed from their duties or resigned since the scandal broke in January.
Several district attorneys have said they are unable to prosecute cases of clergy sex abuse of children because the statute of limitations had expired.
The current time limit for prosecution of the rape of a child is 15 years from the time the crime was reported, or 15 years from the alleged victims 16th birthday, whichever comes first. The clock stops running if the suspected abuser leaves the state.
Birmingham made the proposal as he unveiled an anti-crime package calling for a 50 percent increase in a community policing grant program. Birmingham also received the endorsement of the 6,000-member Massachusetts chapter of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.
The Democratic front-runners, Treasurer Shannon O’Brien and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich have not made proposals abolishing the statute of limitations, although they have called for increases in community policing funds. Their campaigns had no comment on Birmingham’s proposals.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney has called for the restoration of the death penalty and for an end to judges’ lifetime appointments. He has also proposed life sentences for sexual offenders.