In recent years, a number of scandals have arisen that have linked members of the clergy with child sex abuse. These scandals are, understandably, despised by both the public and by church leaders, so any such accusations are often accompanied by outrage and condemnation from every side.
This reaction, though understandable, can lead to problems in the criminal justice system. Criminal justice requires neutrality, and an unbiased examination of the facts. Charges of child sex abuse are extremely serious, and often can lead to years behind bars and decades of registration as a sex offender. It’s important, then, that those who stand accused of such serious charges receive a fair trial.
Here in Baltimore, Maryland, a man was recently accused of committing child sexual abuse against two victims in 1997. The man was a teacher and a youth group leader at the time of the alleged assaults.
The two victims came forward recently to report the abuse, which allegedly took place at youth group functions and at the man’s home. Police arrested the man shortly after the accusations came out; he is currently in Baltimore County Detention Center.
Following the man’s arrest, his church’s leaders released a statement that complimented the bravery of the alleged victims in coming forward, extended sympathy and reaffirmed their commitment to providing a safe place for children to worship.
Under Maryland law, there is no statute of limitations against child sex abuse crimes. This means crimes can always be prosecuted, not matter how much time has passed. This is a good law insofar as it allows adults to come forward and seek justice for crimes committed against them as children, but it does present certain challenges. Hard evidence could be difficult to come by, so many years after the fact, and memories may no longer be accurate. In some cases, the facts of the case may have been exaggerated by the intervening years. Attorneys and judges, therefore, need to work very carefully when dealing with a decades-old child sex abuse case.
ABC2News, “Former church group leader charged with abusing two children” Cheryl Conner, Nov. 01, 2013