By Constantinos Psillides
Childrens Rights Commissioner Leda Koursoumba has blasted authorities over the case of the 17-year-old who was varrested on Sunday for murder, saying that everyone involved turned a blind eye and ignored her warnings.
“The state is solely to blame for this. This is a failure of the system and of the people running it. It’s their fault that a young man is dead, it is their fault that a girl is currently hospitalised and that a 17-year-old boy is heading for prison,” Koursoumba told the Cyprus Mail.
The 17-year-old was arrested after murdering a 22-year-old British Cypriot in Larnaca by stabbing him in the neck. According to the police, the two men were fighting over the 22-year-old’s ex-girlfriend who was currently dating the 17-year-old.
The girl was hospitalised after being questioned by the police. It emerged during the investigation that the 17-year-old was a suspect in at least 60 cases of theft, burglary, drug abuse and assault.
Koursoumba lays the blame on the lack of programmes to help reform delinquent teenagers. “We told them a myriad times that Cyprus has a serious problem when it comes to reforming teenagers. We have no mechanism in place to deal with children that commit crimes or are addicted to drugs. They are being lumped in with criminals and are condemned to a life of crime,” Koursoumba said.
When the murder suspect was 15, he was sent to the Central Prison for three months for car theft where he was jailed alongside criminals.
The Children Rights Commissioner noted that while the case of the 17-year was tragic, it would be a mistake to focus only on it.
“There are several other similar cases with children desperately in need of help. The state should ask for the input of child psychologists and other experts to set up programmes to help them and not throw them in jail.
“Other EU countries have such mechanisms in place. We should study these and come up with our own, so we can prevent problematic children from evolving into criminals,” said Koursoumba.
Regarding the 17-year old, Koursoumba told the Cyprus Mail that she was well aware of his case and that she had repeatedly tried to help the family but to no avail. “This was a case known to everyone. I tried several times to do something about this but every door I knocked on was closed.”
The Commissioner said her office has been warning authorities for years but her advise was never heeded. “My office submits to the president and to all authorities a report annually. We warned them several times. I don’t demand that they implement each and every one of our suggestions but at least they should read it. If not, then what use does the taxpayer have for an independent commissioner who nobody listens to?” remarked Koursoumba.