Cyprus Mail

Legal services say nothing dodgy in traffic cases

By Constantinos Psillides

THE legal services have rejected the notion that a probe carried out by the Attorney-general’s office was biased after a report exposed the fact that an investigating official was closely connected to the person under scrutiny.

The probe was ordered by Attorney-general (AG) Costas Clerides, following reports that well-connected defendants in three traffic accident cases were given lenient sentences.

The judge presiding over the cases was Toula Papapetrou.

Daily Politis reported that the investigating official, a government lawyer with the legal services, was the godmother to one of Papapetrou’s three children and that she failed to disclose this information when she was tasked with investigating the case.

In a statement issued yesterday, the legal services on the one hand confirmed that the investigating official indeed had close family ties with the Limassol judge but on the other said that the official couldn’t have affected the outcome of the investigation, even if she wanted to.

“The probe consisted of compiling the facts as they were already recorded in the three cases, which included detailed signed accounts by the public prosecutors that handled the cases. All relevant facts, along with the signed accounts, were included in each case’s police file,” read the statement.

The legal services also rejected the possibility that the investigating official could have interviewed the judge on the case, since “judges are under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and not the legal services or the office of the Attorney-general.”

The Supreme Court, in a statement issued earlier this week, said that it was expected of Papapetrou to preside over all three cases, since she was the judge appointed to handle traffic accident cases at the Limassol District Court.

The legal services stressed in their statement that what remained to be determined was what exactly took place and why the cases were handled in such a manner by the public prosecutors.

The case first came to light last week when a letter from Limassol traffic police chief Michalis Katsounotos, inquiring about the incidents that took place in 2011 and 2012, was leaked to the press.

The first case involved former commerce minister from 1988 to 1993 Takis Nemitsas, who in 2012 had run over an underage Russian girl after running a red light, leaving the girl paralysed.

Nemitsas pleaded guilty to the charges, but the judge, Papapetrou, did not impose a sentence.

The second case related to a fatal accident, in which 28-year-old lawyer Oliver Anastasis Neophytou, who had been driving under the influence of alcohol, drove into a woman, a third country national, who had been walking on the pavement.

Neophytou faced four charges – manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and not keeping his hands free while driving.

He was fined €3,000, his driver’s licence was revoked for six months, and was penalised with six penalty points for the first charge, while the rest were withdrawn.

The third case concerned an accident in which an elderly woman was killed.

Insurance agent Phedonas Michael was fined €3,000, had his licence revoked for one year and was penalised with five penalty points.

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