THERE is something very wrong with statements given to the police in connection with investigations into serious cases of crime finding their way into newspapers. It is unprofessional and unethical to divulge information contained in the statements of suspects. Although it is fascinating reading, it could have an adverse effect on investigations and jeopardise the successful prosecution of a case.
Last month we read detailed reports about the statements given by suspects involved in the Koshi landfill scandal. We found out how much money was paid to mayors, how often and in what circumstances; there were also details of how the payment of contractors was delayed until the bribery was paid. Such evidence should only be heard at the trial. It should never have made its way into the newspapers which suggest suspects are guilty before they had even been charged in court.
It is often argued that there is no issue of trying to influence the courts in Cyprus because we do not have a jury system. Judges were too experienced to be influenced by newspaper articles and public opinion, it has been argued. Then again, there have been defence lawyers that have argued that negative publicity had prevented their client of having a fair trial. As experienced as our judges may be and as unlikely to be influenced by public opinion, they are human. The objective must always be to give suspects a fair trial and articles assuming guilt cannot help achieve this.
After the reproduction by newspapers of the statements given in connection with the Koshi case, the Attorney-general expressed dissatisfaction, saying that the information should never have been leaked. But why did he not stop it from happening. There could only have been one source for the leak – the police. The Chief of Police or the justice minister could have stopped this from happening, but for unknown reasons they have not. Yesterday one newspaper carried a report with details of statements collected by the police in connection with the case of the backhanders alleged paid to Nicosia hospital doctors by a hearing centre. This could affect the case of the prosecution, assuming charges are brought.
The police need to act more professionally, but then again so should their political superiors. The justice minister had no business announcing that international arrest warrants had been issued against the two former Laiki directors – Bouloutas and Foros – who had refused to appear in a Cyprus court on Wednesday, despite an extradition order. There was no need to make this public, as both have now been alerted to the possibility of being arrested if they travelled abroad. There are things related to the justice system that are best kept out of the public domain.