By Angelos Anastasiou
DEPUTIES’ efforts to reverse the burden of proof in cases of alleged sexual molestation of minors, placing it on the accused, have stumbled upon the Law Service’s opinion that such reversal cannot be made in the context of Cyprus law, House Legal Affairs committee head DISY deputy Sotiris Sampson said yesterday.
The committee convened to discuss a government bill on the prevention and combating sexual assault, the sexual exploitation of minors and child pornography. On instructions by the plenum to the Legal Affairs committee, the body will reconvene tomorrow and next Tuesday for further discussion, so that the finalised bill can be submitted to a plenum vote the following Thursday.
During yesterday’s session, opposition AKEL deputy Irini Charalampidou raised the question of whether the burden of proof could be reversed, only to receive a negative response by delegates from the Law Service. She said that the bill should include provisions for instances where the police is informed by Interpol of the arrival of convicted paedophiles, so that they can be monitored or surveyed by the police as appropriate.
The bill already provides for the monitoring and surveillance of convicted paedophiles after they have been released, and that offences will stand even when committed by minors.
Police representative Kostas Veis recommended that the record created for each sex offender against minors should include the convicted paedophile’s modus operandi, as it is a very significant factor in establishing remorse and level of danger.
“This record should be transferrable to foreign authorities when the convicted person travels abroad,” he said.
Veis confirmed that the record will be kept by the police for life, and recounted an incident where one accused paedophile was released pending trial, only to repeat the offence before he could be tried for the first crime.
DISY deputy Stella Kyriakidou, General Rapporteur on Children of the Council of Europe, said that it is a well-known fact that sex tourism takes place, where adults seek jobs either as teachers, or wherever children may be found, in order to locate minor victims.
“The big challenge lies in prevention,” Kyriakidou said.
Chairman Sotiris Sampson said his committee will keep the timeline imposed by the plenum last Thursday.
But when pressed to explain why the burden of proof could not be reversed in this bill, when it had been reversed in a previous bill on copyright, he offered that despite the committee’s pro-reversal position, the Law Service was adamant that in the context of Cyprus law such reversal was not possible.
“Within the law, and the framework set by Cyprus law in particular, the House legislates to criminalise such behaviour and monitor those convicted of such offences,” he said.