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School board woman ‘was not accomplice’ in abuse case (Updated)

A woman on the Tersefanou school board who encouraged an underage girl to flirt with her husband who was consequently found guilty of sexual abuse was not his accomplice, the legal service said on Monday.

The announcement followed media reports that the woman has continued to work on the school board maintaining contact with pupils despite having a role in the abuse case because no charges were ever brought against her.

Phileleftheros, which first ran the story last week, outlined that the husband was handed down a three-year sentence in 2016 for sexually abusing the underage girl when she was 12 in 2012.

The court heard how the victim and a friend would often visit the home of the couple. Though initially contact was limited to playing card games, the wife would then use the victim as a means to see if her husband would be faithful to her, encouraging the young girl to call him and pretend she was in love with him.

The man responded to the young girl and threatened he would kill himself if she didn’t have sex with him.

“As unethical and reprehensible as (the wife’s behaviour) may have been, it does not constitute complicity in the crimes her husband committed,” the legal service said on Monday.

Based on witness material evaluated in May 2013, “it was determined that the behaviour of the defendant’s wife was a result of sick jealousy to test her husband’s resistance and not with the aim to encourage, instigate or abet her husband in committing the crimes.”

The crimes began after the wife distanced herself from the minor, with whom “she was not implicated in any way,” the legal service added, specifying this was what the former attorney-general at the time Petros Clerides had determined.

Thus, no charges were filed against her.

The education ministry said last week they could do nothing to fire the woman, as they were not her employer. The responsibility lay in the hands of the school board.

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.

The legal service added on Monday that the matter of whether the woman should remain on the board is something for the school board to decide. “Their legal advisor is not the attorney-general.”

On Monday, Phileleftheros revealed that in November 2013, the victim’s father, along with Edek MP George Varnava, had sent a letter to state prosecutor on the case, Elena Kleopa. The letter asked why the case had gone to the district court – which could only impose a maximum sentence of five years – as opposed to criminal court, and why the wife was not facing any charges.

The lawyer responded two months later in January 2014, saying “your request to refer the case to criminal court and all your claims have been re-evaluated and I inform you that the position of our office remains the same.

“As far as your request for criminal prosecution of the wife of the accused, we are of the opinion that from the witness material, there is no evidence for a charge against her. As such, the case will proceed before the district court.”

Commissioner for Children’s Rights Leda Koursoumba, in a letter to Education Minister Costas Kadis, dated October 2, 2017, said the primary concern in any decision involving children is the child’s best interest.

“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.”

 



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