BY Sinead Kelly
TOUGHER penalties for sexual predation and abuse of minors, as well as an agency monitoring convicted sex offenders, were enacted by parliament yesterday in an item combining a government bill and most of the clauses of a legislative proposal drafted by AKEL MP Irini Charalambidou.
The legislation stipulates far stricter jail sentences and fines for child sexual abusers, ranging from 25 years to life imprisonment. Anyone committing a sexual crime against a child under 13 years of age – including exposing them to pornographic material- will be jailed for life.
The bill also provides for a sex offenders’ registry that will be part of a larger EU network.
The new law restricts a defendant’s line of defence in court – such as the allegation that the victim’s participation in a sexual act was consensual – extends a victim’s age of consent to 18, and establishes a support fund for victims.
Penalties for convicted felons also include forbidding them – temporarily or for life – from engaging in professions that involve regular contacts with children.
This likewise applies to persons convicted of such crimes abroad who seek employment in Cyprus. To keep track of such persons, local police will share information with other EU countries.
A monitoring agency will track convicted sex offenders and arrange for psychological support or treatment for them.
The agency will also issue an opinion on the risk a sex offender may pose on the population, aimed at obliging released felons to continue reporting to a police station.
The government bill was introduced only three weeks ago. The House Legal Affairs Committee had been discussing a separate bill regarding the sexual abuse of minors, introduced by AKEL’s Charalambidou, for the last 18 months. AKEL furiously protested intentions to scrap Chralambidou’s bill, and accused the government of springing into action only after a sex scandal broke last month. Known Larnaca businessman Akis Lefkaritis admitted having sex with two underage girls, in a case that caused a massive uproar regarding the absence of sufficient punishment for people who sexually abuse children.