By Andria Kades
A draft bill providing a 10-year sentence for those who cause death by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is in the works, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Wednesday.
He was speaking after a House legal affairs committee meeting during which deputies discussed the bill that propose that if it can be proved in court that the person causing a fatal accident had consumed drugs, was drunk or was speeding could face up to 10 years in prison.
This comes in light of the recent death of a woman who died while walking on a pavement after she was hit by a speeding vehicle and a young man in Limassol who died when a taxi driver that had been speeding, drunk and on drugs hit his vehicle, Nicolaou said.
The draft bill, which would make road deaths caused by accidents a statutory offence does not have a set figure on an alcohol limit or what kinds of drugs could be permitted. Rather, the committee is in the process of discussing a satisfactory way where it can be proved in court that the substances or the speed were the cause of the accident.
“If someone is driving under the influence of so much alcohol but it renders him incapable, not just limits his ability to drive but to react to a situation and as a consequence causes a road death, his responsibilities cannot be limited to careless driving but causing death,” he said.
According to police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou, 49 people died in road accidents so far this year, of which 48 were due to human error.
Medicines will not be included in the bill as the state lab said there may be problems in proving the connection before the court. However this was a concern for deputies as many people use medicine that could possibly affect their driving.
As far as the narcotest bill is concerned, committee chairman Sotiris Sampson said the bill would head to plenum on December 3.
It outlines that drivers can be subjected to a saliva test to detect what drugs they may have used.
During Wednesday’s session, deputies also discussed using a special ankle monitor for convicts sentenced to four or less years in prison, who have served half their sentence and were part of a rehabilitation programme.
Although six people are already using the monitor, the amendments to the bill will see an increase in numbers.
The Central Prisons currently has 50 monitors and according to Sampson, convicts who travel outside the geographical boundaries they are restricted will be charged with a criminal offence.
People older than 70, bedridden or extremely ill will also be able to use the monitors but individuals sentenced for human trafficking, domestic violence and other serious crimes will have no leeway.
The monitoring will be done using a special system at the Central Prisons and should a convict go outside the permitted boundaries, an alarm will sound. He or she will then have 10 minutes to go or be considered a fugitive.