A group of women demonstrated in front of the supreme court in Nicosia on Friday against the reduction by three years of the sentence passed on well-known Larnaca businessman Akis Lefkaritis, 59, on charges of sexually exploiting two girls, aged 14 and 15.
“The decision of the Supreme Court reflects the patriarchal and gendered attitudes and stereotypes of its members that place blame on the victims. Sexual abuse and exploitation of children, rape and sexual violence are among the most serious human rights violations and as active citizens we demand that penalties reflect the gravity of the crime,” the Cyprus women’s lobby said earlier in a statement describing the decision.
“As active members of civil society, we express zero tolerance to sexual abuse and exploitation of children and rape culture and victim blaming. We demand justice for victims of sexual violence as well as the imposition of penalties and sentences that correspond to the severity of the crime and serve as a deterrent to perpetrators.”
Nicos Nicolaou, 37, who was implicated in the same case, also had his June 2014, ten-year sentence reduced by the same number of years, with the appeals court making reference to mistakes made by the first court.
Both convicts had appealed the sentence considering it manifestly excessive.
The three-judge appeals court had unanimously accepted on Monday, the appeals of the two convicts reducing their sentences to nine years for Lefkaritis and seven for Nicolaou.
In its decision, the supreme court referred to factors that made the case very serious. These included the age difference between the defendants and the victims, and Lefkaritis’ repeated criminal behaviour with the younger of the two victims.
To their credit however, there were compelling mitigating factors, the main being the immediate and complete remorse of the appellants, to which the appeals court believed due weight was not given.
From the arguments put forward by Lefkaritis’ lawyer for reduction of his sentence, the lack of knowledge on his part of the dire economic situation of the juvenile victims, which was not brought up in the criminal court, counted in favour of his client, according to the decision.
“Based on all the facts put before us, we believe that the confession and acknowledgment of both appellants was not proportionally reflected in the sentence,” the supreme court decision said.
The court said it became necessary that the sentences passed by the criminal court be reduced accordingly, to be free from the identified errors in reflecting adequately the importance of the mens’ admissions.