The longer sentence handed on appeal to a 32-year-old man for having sex in 2008 and 2009 with a young girl, a minor at the time, was based on the circumstances of the case and should not be taken as guidance for future rulings, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.
According to the facts of the case, the man, 25 at the time, became close with the 15-year-old in 2008 and she invited him to the family home in 2008 on a day when her parents and sister were out. The two chatted briefly before having sex.
A few days later, the man left for England, returning to Cyprus in April 2009. Weeks later, contact between them restarted and in June the man visited the girl’s house again on her invitation. This time, he brought his cousin and a friend along and the girl had sex with all three men.
Upon the family’s return the girl’s parents went into her bedroom to check up on her, where they found two men naked and their daughter half-naked. The father assaulted the two young men, one of whom fled the house without his clothes.
Following the incident, the girl pressed charges, and the three men were charged with sexually exploiting a minor and corruption of a young girl.
The court handed the 32-year-old a three-month sentence for each of the sexual exploitation instances, and four months for each count of corrupting a young girl. The man’s cousin and friend were given a suspended three-month sentence for corrupting a young girl.
The Legal Service appealed the verdict, arguing it was obviously inadequate given the circumstances.
Because the girl suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – a genetic connective tissue disorder – she was deemed, at 15, to have had the intellectual capacity of a 12-year-old, meaning her sexual exploitation and corruption were even more severe than her age might suggest, the state prosecutor argued.
Further, the court appeared to have given more weight to the time-lapse between the incidents and the trial – normally, a mitigating factor in sentencing – than would be appropriate, considering the delay was almost exclusively due to the defendant’s actions.
The paradox of the sentence for sexually exploiting a minor was lighter than the punishment for the corruption charge was also pointed out by the prosecution. The law allows a larger maximum penalty for sexual exploitation – up to 20 years at the time, later changed to life in prison – whereas corruption incurs a maximum sentence of three years, suggesting that the former crime should be dealt more harshly.
Accepting these arguments, the Supreme Court observed that the defendant’s not-guilty plea subjected the victim to the ordeal of reliving the traumatic instances during cross-examination.
Therefore, the Supreme Court said, the three-month sentence on each of the sexual exploitation charges was revised to twelve months, the two sentences concurring, while leaving the penalties handed for the two counts of corrupting a young girl unchanged.
But the case in question was judged on the basis of its own special circumstances and should not be construed as guidance on future sentences to be handed for such serious offences, the Supreme Court warned in its ruling.