VILNIUS – The Lithuanian Justice Ministry recommends that the government support an extension of the statute of limitations for sexual offenses against children, but its proposed wording is not as strict as the one under discussion in the parliament.
Following a review of the draft legislation tabled by parliamentarians, the Justice Ministry says it backs the initiative in principle, but suggests certain modifications to bring it into line with the Criminal Code and establish a slightly less stringent regulation.
The Cabinet is expected to discuss the matter this week.
The draft amendment to the Criminal Code, which would extend the statute of limitations for sexual offences against minors by several dozen years, has passed its first reading in the parliament.
Under the proposed amendment, the statute of limitations for this type of offence would start to run when the victim turns 35.
The Justice Ministry proposes to change the wording to say that if a minor suffers from a sexual offense, the statute of limitations may not run out before the person turns 35.
The ministry notes that the Criminal Code links the starting point of the statute of limitations exclusively to the commission of the offence, so the proposal to tie it to the age of the victim would unbalance the system.
Under the ministry's proposal, the statute of limitations would run from the alleged commission of the offence, but with the additional provision that it cannot expire before the minor victim reaches that age.
Currently, the Criminal Code stipulates that the statute of limitations for a sexual offence against a minor cannot expire before he or she turns 25.
Under the Criminal Code, depending on the gravity of the offence, the statute of limitations ranges from three to 30 years from the date of the commission of the offence to the date of the sentence.
The initiators of the amendments from the Freedom Party, the Liberal Movement, the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats and the Social Democratic Party say that the statute of limitations is too short for cases of sexual violence against minors, because children tend to remain silent about their abuse, fearing the reactions of the perpetrator and those around them.
The explanatory note provides data showing that the most serious sexual offences against minors are not subject to any statute of limitations in Ireland, Estonia, the Netherlands, Sweden and Hungary. In Latvia, the court has discretionary power to decide on the statute of limitations in cases of statutory rape and some forms of sexual violence against minors.
In some EU countries, the statute of limitations for certain sexual offences against minors does not start to run until the victims reach a certain age. For instance, Spain sets this age at 35, Germany at 30, Hungary at 21, and numerous other countries at 18.