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Our View: The lunacy of easy-payment plans for poachers

A songbird trapped in a mist net by poachers

Is there any other country in the world in which lawmakers are ambiguous about the laws and try to reduce the cost of law breaking? This phenomenon was evident again at the legislature this week when deputies of the House environment committee discussed amendments to a law on poaching and unlicensed hunting approved four months ago. After protests by hunters and poachers – there was a big protest event in Paralimni where most of the poaching takes place last month – deputies decided to reduce the penalties for law breaking.
In other words, breaking the law will be less costly if the amendments, which envisage easier terms for the payment of fines, are approved. During the meeting, one deputy cited the example of a poacher who had fines amounting to €20,000 to pay and explained that he would be destroyed financially. This ludicrous example was used in support of the proposal that lawbreakers should be given more time than the six months stipulated by the existing law to pay their fines.
One deputy suggested that poachers should be offered a 10 per cent discount if they paid their fines within a certain period. Another amendment proposal was to allow poachers to repay particularly high fines in installments. The punishment for law breaking made easier for the lawbreaker to cope with. Deputies want lawbreakers treated like a consumer buying a fridge or a television – offered easy payment terms. Settling fines in easy to repay installments will make poaching more affordable. Perhaps the banks can offer special loan schemes for Famagusta district bird-trappers, to help cope with the consequences of law breaking.
The payment facilities could be used if deputies do not go ahead with the original plan to drastically reduce the fines imposed. If the fines are cut it will be a disaster. The fines were working according to the head of the Game Fund Pantelis Hadjiyerou, who said that a visit to the bird-poaching areas proved this. In the past, all you could hear were the sound machines that lured songbirds to mist nets and limesticks, whereas the situation has improved dramatically now, because the big fines are working as a deterrent.
Deputies, in effect, want the fines to stop acting as a deterrent to the poachers. Worse still, they want to make it an offense for anyone to interfere with hunting activities, as if the countryside is the exclusive preserve of hunters and their dogs. This proposal is primarily aimed at frightening off activists who often expose the bird poachers, as any action they take would be interpreted as interfering with hunting activities. Deputies at the environment committee have made their intentions very clear – law breaking will not only be made more affordable, but lawbreakers will be protected.

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