By Constantinos Psillides
STRICT penalties for people who engage in the sexual abuse of minors are stipulated in a bill proposed by the government, with sentences ranging in most cases from 25 years to life imprisonment.
The bill – to bring Cyprus law in line with that of the EU – was discussed at the House Legal Affairs committee yesterday and Monday and a final version is expected to be put to a plenum vote within the month.
According to the bill, anyone who forces a child to engage in a sexual act, or even observe a sexual act is guilty of a felony and can be sentenced to up to 25 years of imprisonment. The legal age of consent in Cyprus is 17.
If the suspect took advantage of a position of trust – such as parent, guardian or even a teacher – or if the victim was in a vulnerable state of mind – mentally handicapped or traumatised – then no mitigating factors should be considered by the judge, the bill states.
If the victim is under 13 years of age, then the sentence is life imprisonment, with no exceptions.
The bill also deals with child pornography. Any person found guilty of forcing a child to participate in pornographic material faces up to 25 years imprisonment. The same goes for any person that benefits from child pornography.
The same penalty applies for people who knowingly viewed pornographic material featuring children, or who force children to watch it.
Any person found with pornographic material featuring children in his possession will also face up to 25 years in jail. The same goes for people who regularly visit child pornography sites.
Any person who proposes to a child below the age of consent to meet with the intent of either sexual abuse or to force them to take part in pornographic material will face up to 10 years imprisonment. This is to deal with sexual predators approaching children through social networking websites.
The bill authorises courts to suspend child pornography websites or if that is not possible to block access to them from the island.
Collaborators are also being targeted by the bill. Anyone found guilty of aiding and abetting a crime related with the sexual abuse of minors will face the same sentence as the actual perpetrator.
The harmonising bill also asks for the establishment of a fund called the Underage Victims of Sexual Abuse Fund (UVSAF), which will be used to provide victims with psychological therapy, advise the state on matters of sexual abuse and facilitating the re-entry of sexual abuse victims back into society. Funding is to come from donations, grants and the fines imposed on people found guilty of a sexual offence involving a minor.
The bill also calls for the creation of a committee to monitor paedophiles after they are released from prison. According to the bill, people guilty of a sexual offence involving minors have to register their name and address, their DNA and any other contact information with the committee. They are asked to report once a year to the police to confirm their contact information, which will be submitted to the European registry.
Monitoring child sex offenders was deemed necessary by the Legal Affairs Committee earlier this year when it became known that four such offenders were due for release in 2014.
The bill also provided for paedophiles who want to seek help, as they can resort to a monitoring committeeoffering guidance.
The state’s bill comes as Larnaca businessman Akis Lefkaritis and Nicolas Nicolaou were recently accused of having sexual relations with two girls aged 14 and 15. They are currently under trial and if convicted Lefkaritis might face a 10 year sentence.