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Cyprus

Police ‘acted immediately’ on abuse claim after children’s watchdog cites violations

Commissioner for the Rights of Children Leda Koursoumba (CNA)

Police on Thursday denied that they had violated the rights of a minor child whose parents had reported a neighbour for allegedly sexually abusing her.

The claims that police had not acted to protect the child were made by Commissioner for Children’s Rights Leda Koursoumba on Wednesday.

Koursoumba said her office’s investigation revealed a host of violations of the convention on the rights of children and other legislation protecting children. “Police did not proceed with protective measures for the victim, though they had the power to file a restraining order against the suspect,” she said.

“Instead, the family of the child victim in an effort to protect their underage daughter from possible contact with the abuser, whose house is next to that of the victim, had to take upon themselves the obligations of the state, changing the place where they stayed, with all the financial and emotional effects for all family members this entailed.”

The family from Limassol initially went to their local police station on December 24, 2015 to report the sexual abuse of their underage daughter by a 47-year-old neighbour.

The daughter had first told another minor family member and later on her parents that when she went to see the suspect, they would watch videotapes with sexual content.

According to the parents, local police officers on duty discouraged and ultimately prevented them from filing a complaint.

On January, 28, 2016 they reported the case to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as they felt local police were not doing enough but were told to go back to their local police station.

They found out that the complaint was filed on December 29, 2015, five days after they had made it.

Only after pressure was applied by a family member did police finally agree on January 1 to take a statement from the minor to whom the abuse was first reported, Koursoumba said, and no video recording was made though this should be done where the witness is a minor.

Furthermore, according to the parents, police didn’t provide sufficient information on the criminal proceedings despite repeated requests to do so.

The family had to move house in order to protect their daughter, which meant they had to pay rent in addition to paying for the mortgage of their house, something that, the child commissioner added, placed an unbearable financial burden on them.

Police also neglected to look into the possibility that the suspect had other victims, she pointed out.

Valuable time was lost as the suspect’s home was searched on January 2, 2016, giving him ample time to dispose of any evidence.

Koursoumba forwarded the results of the investigation to police who on Thursday gave a very different account of the events.

They claim the complaint of the parents was registered on the same day they made it but the parents decided not to go ahead with a criminal investigation at this early stage.

“Police acted immediately and in no way concealed the incident. The case has been investigated and is now before the court for trial,” the police statement said.

“Police obtained an arrest and search warrant and searched the house and the suspect’s vehicle with his written consent.”

In the statement, they also note that the parents themselves informed the suspect they were going to report him, thus giving him the opportunity to conceal evidence.

Their replies to the other accusations were that the statement by the minor was recorded on video, during the investigations no evidence emerged that the man had victimised any other minors and the family was updated on the case regularly.

Police saw no need for a restraining order as the suspect didn’t live in the same house as the victim and had no access to the building.

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