By Angelos Anastasiou
THERE is no evidence of suspicious transactions or other reprehensible acts by any of the officials involved in the three court cases reported by Limassol Traffic police last week in which the judge appeared to have handed down extremely lenient sentences, Attorney General Kostas Clerides said yesterday.
In a statement following a review of each case file, Clerides offered detailed case histories “in the interest of transparency.”
With regard to the case of insurance agent Fedonas Michaelides Ioannou, who had pled guilty to manslaughter charges in November 2013, the incident had occurred in April 2011, when Ioannou was accused of driving recklessly and causing the death of Katerina Ioannou, 80, on a pedestrian crossing in Limassol.
According to Clerides, the defendant was brought before District Court judge Toulla Papapetrou, who had been assigned all traffic offence cases since September 2013.
He was handed a €3,000 fine, a one-year driving ban and five penalty points on his driver’s licence.
The next day, Limassol police prosecutor Andreas Perikleous forwarded the file to the Police Chief for appeal on grounds of “inadequate sentencing.”
The appeal was submitted on behalf of the Attorney General later in November.
Clerides said that no issues were raised by the handling of this case as a sentence was deemed inadequate and was appealed.
The second incidence, according to the Attorney General’s statement, related to a case involving former Commerce minister Takis Nemitsas, who was charged with reckless driving and running a red light in July 2012.
According to the case file, the accident caused 14-year-old Russian Ekaterina Meshko serious injuries. Meshko was transported to Russia for treatment in August 2012, but there has been no information concerning her health since.
Nemitsas pleaded guilty before judge Papapetrou in May 2014, and the court decided to acknowledge seven mitigating factors in sentencing – namely, the defendant’s age (Nemitsas was 84); his clean criminal record; the absence of penalty points on his driving licence; his remorse and the fact that he offered the plaintiff restitution, both through his insurance company and by settling in the ensuing civil suit; his voluntary waiving of his driver’s licence for nine months, which he regained after passing a driving test; the time lapsed between the accident and the trial, a period of almost two years; and relevant sentencing guidelines for reckless driving, which are imprisonment for one year or a fine up to €1,708, or both.
“In light of the above mitigating factors, the Judge handed down no sentence, deeming the defendant a special case,” said Clerides.
But in the absence of a sentence, no appeal for ‘inadequate sentencing’ could be filed, Clerides argued in his statement.
“Judicial evaluation of the decision was, and is, not possible, since there had been no sentence to appeal,” the statement said.
The third case was brought against 26-year-old lawyer Anastasis Oliver Neophytou, who had been accused that in December 2012 he was driving while intoxicated and using a mobile phone, causing an accident in which Philippino housemaid Vanila Gentianos was killed.
According to this case file, a police prosecutor cited a telephone conversation with a public prosecutor at Legal Services, in which he claimed to have received oral instructions to withdraw the drunk driving, reckless driving and mobile phone usage charges if the defendant pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
“This was the result of a plea bargain, which under certain circumstances allows for the withdrawal of lesser charges in favour of an immediate guilty plea on the more serious charges,” Clerides said.
During sentencing, the court once again acknowledged a set of mitigating factors, including the fact that the accident had been the result of a momentary lapse; the fact that the victim had been crouched between the two cars that crashed; Neophytou’s clean criminal record, professional advancement as a lawyer, immediate guilty plea and remorse, and no further offences since the accident; €54,962 paid to the victim’s family as restitution; and the excessive time lapse between the accident and the trial – two years.
The case was not forwarded to the Attorney General’s office for appeal.
This case, said Clerides, raises two questions – firstly, why the approval of the Attorney General or his deputy was not asked for prior to withdrawing three charges, and secondly, why the Legal Services were not asked to advise on whether an appeal should be filed.
But both of these issues relate to the police prosecutors who handled the case, and Clerides said that, following further investigation of the circumstances under which the charges were dropped and a decision to not appeal was made, the Attorney General will be issuing strict instructions for written instructions to be issued in both such instances.
“In the absence of any evidence of suspicious transactions or other reprehensible acts by any official, the facts of these cases do not warrant further investigation of these matters,” the AG’s letter concluded.