By Constantinos Psillides
THE Supreme Court has overruled the forced resignations of three police officers convicted in 2011 of beating up two students during a routine check along the Armenias street in Nicosia in 2005.
The Court overturned a decision made by the police force disciplinary board, which decided that the officers should be forced to resign in light of the crime they had been convicted of.
The three officers were initially acquitted of all charges by the Criminal Court but the Supreme Court ordered the case to go through trial again. The accused pleaded guilty in charges of assault and causing actual bodily harm and in 2011 were sentenced to 12 months in jail with a three-year suspension.
The police disciplinary board handed down its own sentence, which initially was an eight-day paid suspension. Police chief Michalis Papageorgiou subsequently filed an appeal against the punishment on the grounds it was inadequate and the Appeals Board reversed the decision ordering instead that the officers should resign.
The Supreme Court in its decision issued on Friday said the Appeals Board was had not maintained impartiality at “every step of the process” as it was of “paramount importance” to do so.
The Supreme Court also decided that by participating in the Appeals Board, the Chief of Police had nullified any notion of impartiality, since he had adopted his predecessor’s opinion that the crimes the officers were accused of were so grave they merited a disciplinary hearing.
The Court based its decision on the fact that when Papageorgiou asked for a Appeals Board member to be substituted due to promotion, he referred to a previous letter sent by his predecessor Charalambos Koulentis as “my previous letter”.
The Court maintained that by being an ex officio member of the Appeals Board the police chief’s presence resulted to an unfair hearing.
The Court also remarked that being asked to resign was too harsh a punishment as it was second only to being fired. In the decision, the Court noted that the Appeals Board accepted as mitigating circumstances the officers’ lack of previous criminal record, as well as the fact that they had been out of the job for seven years. “One wonders what their decision would be, if they hadn’t accepted the mitigating circumstances,” the ruling states.
The Supreme Court also cited the extensive negative media coverage during the case, which it said, should also count as a mitigating circumstance.
The brutal beating of the two victims only came to light after a member of the public filmed it and had it published by Politis newspaper. The story shocked and angered the nation and resulted in weeks of demonstrations.