Today: Aug 20 , 2019

Opinion: Equal Access to Justice Should Apply to Both Accuser and Accused
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29 May 2019   Geoffrey Parker

It’s about real justice.

The legislature passed, and the governor signed into law, an extension of time to bring charges for sexual assault. The case for justice is compelling yet there are likely unintended consequences. Without equal access to justice for the accused and the accuser then justice is not served. There are multiple issues here.  

Extending time limitations can have an unintended consequence of the abused deciding to wait years to make charges until they are ready "to deal with it." When there has actually been abuse, that just allows real pedophiles to continue their behavior without accountability creating countless more victims.  

The reasons for statutes of limitations are many. Hugely important is that the prospects for a fair trail, for those falsely accused, go down over time as memories fade, imaginations grow, witnesses decline or die, and alibi witnesses also pass or cannot be contacted.

Yet the fact of a trial, years later, can result in immense harm to reputations, relationships, and careers . . . and wrongly so when the trail is inconclusive, or there is an acquittal left in doubt in the court of public opinion.  

Allegedly abused children are not the only ones with rights. One senator stated, "providing legal relief to victims is too important to allow business as usual" . . . at first blush, this may not seem like the dangerous statement that it is. Yet when "business as usual" is a pejorative against our “usual” constitutional rights such as to a speedy trial, and due process, we are turning the system upside down.  

Let us hope that unintended adverse consequences do not become reality.