Vote on Child Victims Act Possible in State Budget Proposals.

Catholic Priest Abuse, Nichols School Report Giving Issue a Boost

Dave Debo
March 20, 2018 - 7:36 am

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(WBEN)  On the day the Buffalo Diocese is expected to release the names of priests accused of abuse, in Albany there are some hints that action may happen on a child victims act at any time. With all the attention recently given claims of abuse by priests, at least one state senator says it is likely to be passed this year, and could be voted on as part of the state budget.

"I think that it is a good thing that there is a lot of attention given this issue, and I think that because there is so much attention about it, my feeling is this is the year that something will happen," says New York State Senator Patrick Gallivan, an Elma Republican.

The bill, as it has been proposed in past years, would extend the statue of limitations in abuse cases, allowing criminal charges to be filed until a victim turns 28 years old. Currently it runs out when a victim reaches 23.   The law also proposes a year long look back, that would allow any civil cases that had not been previously filed to come forward with fresh claims regardless of how old the abuse is. 

It comes at a time when the when the Roman Catholic Church here and elsewhere is  grappling with fresh accusers and special compensation plans.

Gallivan is unsure whether the bill will be included in a state budget package that has to be voted on by April 1, but he is confident that if it is not put there, that there is enough sentiment to pass a compromise version of the bill in the coming months.

 In addition to the attention given priestly abuse cases, he says that an investigative report released by The Nichols School is also given the issue an extra level of urgency.  In January the school said that they are aware of approximately  10 cases of faculty members having inappropriate contact with students over the past 40 years.  

"I think there is general agreement on extending both the civil and criminal statute of limitations. I think the issue for some is opening it up for a 12 month period so a victim could bring a legal action for something that was alleged to have occurred even as much as 60 o 70 years ago,"

Earlier versions of the bill have been passed in the NYS Assembly in recent years, with some support from both Democrats and Republicans.

"There has to be a compromise along the way to get everyone on board," says Assemblyamn Ray Walter, an Amherst Republican. " There certainly are concerns about the look back factor. There is a reason for a statue of limitations, evidence people memories get cloudy.But we are talking about some heinous acts and need to open them up for prosecution." 

In recent weeks, a variety of activists that have been working with victims of clergy have been calling for action on the bill.  Last week the Erie County Legislature voted unanimously in favor of urging senate action on the bill, and Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says that he and other State Senator Tim Kennedy have been lobbying for it also. 

"The problem is the civil compensation aspect of it. That's what's holding this thing up," Flynn tells WBEN..." My answer to that is separate them out. Just deal with the criminal part right now. Change the statue of limitations. as far as the criminal statutes, and then worry about the civil statutes at a later date.  If you can't agree on the civil stuff, do that next year, but this year, handle the criminal part."

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