A statute of limitations is a law which stops people from being charged with a crime committed more than a set number of years in the past.
It’s basically an expiry date for when you can be charged with a crime. If you committed a crime, but the statute of limitations has passed; you cannot be charged.
In the USA the length of the Statute of Limitations for sex crimes, including rape, differs state-by-state.
Actor-Comedian Bill Cosby is currently accused of a long list of sexual assaults. The majority of the alleged crimes took place way back in the 1970s and 1980s; because of the statute of limitations he won’t be charged. However one of the accusations claims Cosby drugged and abused a woman in 2008, because this is within the statute of limitations Bill is in a lot of trouble.
In the UK there is no time limit, which is why Labour peer Lord Janner is facing a trial for sex crimes dating back to the 1960s.
The main argument for the statute is that over time evidence will become less reliable. Physical evidence may deteriorate or get lost. Witnesses’ memories of events will become blurred over time.
Various psychological studies on memory support this. Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus suggested that information provided after the event can significantly alter existing memories. In a study she showed participants a video of a robbery, and then a news report of the same event. Though the news report contained errors, many participants included these in their own version of what happened. All sounds a bit like Inception.
The physical signs of abuse will also fade over time; making it very difficult and time-consuming to put a case together. Another argument for the statute of limitations is that people deserve the right to a swift trial. They also shouldn’t have to fear prosecution for a minor crime like shoplifting if it occurred many years in the past.
Research has shown that victims of sexual abuse take longer to come forward. A report on child sexual abuse in Australia found that it took on average 22 years to come forward.
Some states in America have statutes of limitation as short as three years for sexual abuse. It’s easy to see how many victims won’t get justice as they come forward too late.
In the case of Bill Cosby; even if he is found guilty of sexual assault in the 2008 case, his punishment may be less severe compared to the sentence he might have faced if found guilty of all the other alleged crimes.
Statutes Explained; count off the days ‘til you can safely admit to past crimes
Should the USA get rid of the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse? Or should countries like the UK create a similar rule?
Activist; someone who campaigns for social change. Activists use online campaigns, predominantly peaceful marches and petitions to lobby governments and leaders to make changes.
Monday July 13th, eco-warriors from the group “Plane Stupid” chained themselves together in the middle of a Heathrow runway. They were protesting plans to create a third runway at Heathrow; claiming it will damage the environment. Many flights have been delayed and cancelled as the protesters were cut free and taken into custody.
Can you withstand freezing temperatures? Can you cope with heights? Then you might be tough enough to join Greenpeace activists hijacking oil rigs drilling in the arctic. Greenpeace use the publicity from occupying the rig to get their point across.
Don’t expect a warm welcome. Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo once got blasted by water cannons for hours while trying to board a rig in Greenland. Potential bodily harm? No biggie.
Greenpeace said that their climate activists all have climbing experience in their day-to-day lives. So don’t try this at home, kids.
So you’ve occupied a rig, a public space or an area you wish to protect. What do you do next?
Climate activists from the Earth First group spent four years defending a forest by “tree sitting”. Activists created “nests” high up in the trees and then used ropes to travel between them. Activists took turns just sitting in the trees; preventing the company which owned the land from cutting them down.
Perhaps pack that book you’ve been meaning to read.
While you’re out protesting don’t forget to let people know what you’re up to.
Public perception is a big deal for activists. Loose the support of the public and funding from donations dries up. It also doesn’t hurt to have the public on your side when in court facing a punishment for breaking the law.
When Greenpeace activists hijacked an oil rig they posted regular updates online. As the saying goes; there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Social media is a great way of organising support for rallies and marches. So, do you know your hashtags from your likes? Very good; but it’s about to get real.
Living in 1960s South Africa was not easy for black people. Racial segregation called Apartheid meant that black people were treated as second class citizens. An all-white government had been in power since 1948. Black people were forced to live in separate areas. They also had to carry documents so that their movement could be monitored and controlled.
Activist Nelson Mandela headed up the military wing of the African National Congress; an organisation fighting for the rights of black people. For years his military group (called the Spear of the Nation) attacked railways, official buildings and power stations. Over 200 targets were attacked from 1961 to 1964. Though the Spear of the Nation never deliberately targeted people, many died as a result of the attacks.
Today Mandela is seen as a brave freedom fighter; at the time the government viewed him as a dangerous terrorist.
Break the law and you have to be prepared to face the consequences.
Nelson Mandela was eventually captured and sent to prison for life. He served 27 years in jail before being released. He later became South Africa’s first black President. He was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2013 Russia arrested Greenpeace activists for protesting on an oil rig. At first they faced charges of piracy; after months these charges were dropped. Russia was about to host the Winter Olympics; many believe the charges got dropped to improve public perceptions of Russia’s human rights record.
The life of an activist is not an easy one. Annoy the wrong people and you could wake up dead.
Sometimes activists get killed by accident. The Suffragette Movement is a good example of how standing up for a cause can be deadly.
The Suffragettes protested for women’s rights. Ladies; they’re the reason you get to vote in elections today. But it didn’t come easy.
1913; a suffragette called Emily Davison, died after she threw herself in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby.
For years most people thought this was suicide. New analysis of film footage suggests Davison was attempting to attach a suffragette banner to the horse belonging to King George V. Women finally got the vote in 1928.