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Cyprus

New bill to allow small debtors to pay with community service

The central prison in Nicosia

THE justice ministry said on Friday that two bills have been prepared to amend existing legislation so as to provide discretion to the court to sentence persons who owe small amounts of money to community work instead of jail.

The current system turns the amount due into a monetary sentence and a jail order is issued.

The two bills, that have been sent to the state legal services for vetting, aim to give people with small debts the opportunity to pay their debt instead of ending up in prison, and to serve their sentence through community work instead of paying the monetary sentence.

They also provide that when monetary sentences are in order, for the defendant’s financial situation to be taken into consideration. If the defendant is not in a position to pay, the bills provide for jail sentence, a combination of jail sentence and reduced fine, or community service.

Under the current system, for around every €3,400 in fines an individual gets five days in jail.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou had said last year during a House committee meeting, that the government favoured community work for fines up to €3,000.

The ministry has also sent instructions to the police to focus on those court orders against those who have shown no cooperation as regards paying their debts, and in the case of those who truly are unable to pay, to advise them to resort to the Attorney-general’s office to file for a suspension of prosecution and make other arrangements.

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