Cyprus Mail

Woman linked to child sex abuse in daily contact with pupils (Updated)

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Attorney-General Costas Clerides will determine what action, if any, will be taken against a woman identified by a court in 2016 as an accomplice to her husband’s sexual abuse of an underage girl but who continues to work on the Tersefanou school board and is in daily contact with pupils, it emerged on Friday.
According to local daily Phileleftheros, the woman’s husband was handed a jail term by the Larnaca district court in December 2016 over the sexual abuse of a minor, and determined that his wife had been involved, aiding and abetting him.
Eleven months later, responding to an inquiry by the Greens’ leader Yiorgos Perdikis and Commissioner for Children’s Rights Leda Koursoumba, the school board’s chairman said in a letter that, although he had been aware of the issue all along, the law afforded him no room for action other than reporting the matter to the education ministry.
“Police investigated the sexual abuse case near the end 2012, but charged only [the woman’s] husband – not her,” the school board’s letter said.
“In November 2016, the court’s ruling recorded her behaviour, of which we had already been informed by the victim’s parents, and the ruling was forwarded to the legal service to establish whether she, too, had committed any crimes. Unfortunately, almost one year later, no charges have been brought against her, and it seems that there will not be.”
The board referred the case to the education ministry, asking for instructions, but were told they should seek legal advice as they “could not take a position”.
“Our legal advisers told us that there is no legal basis in the school board laws and regulations to initiate disciplinary action against this employee, and if we were to fire her we would eventually be forced to compensate her for her dismissal,” the letter said.
In a letter to Education Minister Costas Kadis, dated October 2, 2017, Koursoumba said the primary concern in any decision involving children is the child’s best interest.
“Given that [the woman] continues to work in a place where children go to school, I consider it your obligation to take all necessary measures to protect the children,” she said.
“If, following the assessment of the children’s best interest, it is concluded that this person’s employment should be terminated, in my view, whether the payment of compensation will be required, and by whom, is not the decisive factor in coming to a decision.”
But the ministry has no jurisdiction in the case because it is not the woman’s employer, Kadis said on Friday.
“We asked the Legal Service for advice on how to deal with the issue, and were told that the ministry cannot order the dismissal of this employee and that the school board should seek legal advice from its advisers,” Kadis said, adding that the ministry advised the school board accordingly.
According to a letter from the ministry to the attorney-general’s office, dated September 15, 2017, the Tersefanou school board conducted a disciplinary probe and ordered the employee to stop appearing at her place of work.
Nonetheless, on advice of her lawyer, she went to work as normal the next day and continues to do so, with the school board reluctant to fire her for fear of compensation claims.
Sources cited by the Cyprus News Agency said that the next steps will be decided by the attorney-general.
What makes the case complicated, CNA added, citing sources, is that the dismissal of people never charged in court is not allowed.
The only legally acceptable way for the woman to be dismissed, the sources added, would be for the legal service to bring charges against her over the affair, in which case the school board could fire her.

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