By Constantinos Psillides
CHAIRMAN of the Cyprus Bar Association Doros Ioannides has publicly criticised the justice minister for a letter he sent to the attorney-general requesting that the state appeal the 45-month jail sentence for a 68-year-old paedophile who sexually assaulted a six-year-old girl.
The sentence has sparked widespread criticism of the judge for not imposing a stricter sentence.
But Ioannides said on Thursday it was not for Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou to file an appeal in the case.
“The only one who can file an appeal is the attorney-general. Nicolaou is just expressing his feelings, like you or I do. He doesn’t have the authority to order the attorney-general to file an appeal,” Ioannides said, adding that it is unfair for people to focus their criticism on the legal system.
“People have to realise that it is not the judge’s fault. He carried out his duty to the best of his abilities. The fault lies with the law office of the republic. Why did they file the case with the district court instead of the criminal court?” he asked, pointing out that five years was the maximum sentence the district court could hand down.
“The judge looked at the mitigating circumstances and decided that it was in his authority to punish the defendant with a 45-month sentence. If people have a problem with that they should take it up with the attorney-general and the law office. They are the ones that dropped the ball by filing the case with the district court,” he said.
The attorney-general’s office has yet to comment on the case.
According to the court decision, the court considered as mitigating circumstances the defendant’s clear criminal record, his deteriorating health, his age, the fact that he admitted to the crime and thus spared the little girl from testifying and that the victim didn’t suffer any bodily harm.
Even the judge didn’t think the sentence was strict enough, and was quick to criticise the law office for filing the case at district court level.
Had the 68-year-old appeared before the criminal court, he could be handed a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail.
The crime took place almost four years ago, before stricter legislation on child abuse was introduced.
The parliament passed legislation in July 2014 stipulating that sexually abusing a child under the age of thirteen – even exposing the child to pornographic material – could result in a life sentence.
The new legislation also stipulates that the 68-year-old will be branded as a sex offender and be monitored by a special committee set up to keep tabs on sex offenders.
Stricter legislation was introduced in the aftermath of a high profile underage sexual abuse case. Akis Lefkaritis, a well-known Larnaca businessman was sentenced last July to 12 years in jail after being found guilty of sexually exploiting two girls, aged 12 and 14.
Public outcry over what was received as lenient sentencing forced the state to speed the process to ratify the Lanzarote Convention, an EU directive requiring all members states to adopt specific legislation and take measures to prevent sexual violence, to protect child victims and to prosecute perpetrators.
Cyprus had signed the convention back in 2007 but had never ratified it.
On October 2012 the island was up in arms after it emerged that police released without charge a 67-year-old man who admitted to molesting his underage nephew, who lived down the street from him in Limassol.
On February 11, 2012, a 44-year-old father of two was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for sexual crimes involving minors, the heaviest sentence given to a paedophile to date. The 44-year-old had repeatedly raped two girls age six and eight, after luring them to his home with the promise of toys. The 44-year-old was proved in court to be a serial rapist, as he had sexually assaulted six more girls.
On July 2008 the Supreme Court doubled the sentence of a 57-year-old violin teacher who was found guilty of sexually abusing two girls ages 10 and 14. The teacher had previously received six months, angering the public over the perceived leniency.
On May 20, 2008, a desperate 40-year-old mother of three was forced to leave her home after her paedophile husband came to visit while still technically in jail. Only two years before, the man had been sentenced to 10 years in jail for raping his 13-year-old stepdaughter. The man appealed the case, claiming that the prosecution didn’t prove beyond doubt that the girl was raped. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the man, taking five years out of his sentence.