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Justice minister says safety has increased over past five years

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou’s willingness to re-examine the punishments stipulated by law was a concession to the clubs

The public’s sense of safety has increased and the number of property crimes decreased in his five years at the helm of the justice ministry, minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Friday, adding that serious crime has also declined, as opposed to drug trafficking.
At a news conference held to present the ministry’s work over the last five years, Nicolaou said his main drivers since he assumed the ministry have been transparency, meritocracy and the public’s safety.
He added that the entire structure of the judiciary will be overhauled by 2020, addressing the issue of delays in dispensing justice.
Nicolaou said the creation of the administrative court had lightened the supreme court’s load by 7,800 cases, with 1,300 more filed every year.
“At present, the administrative court tries 30 per cent more cases than are filed,” Nicolaou said.
In addition, 18 new district court judges have been appointed and the number of appeals court sessions per month has tripled.
Progress has also been made on the digitisation of the courts, he added, for which the contract will be awarded shortly.
With regard to the police, the minister said its members’ capabilities were upgraded and showcased through training, and cited the agreement with the University of Cyprus for training programmes for new recruits and those selected for promotion to inspector rank.
He added that the number of people registered for neighbourhood watch programmes rose from 4,000 in 2012 to 90,000 this year, and cited the example of the village of Dali, where the programme has managed to reduce crime by 45 per cent.
On the penal system, Nicolaou said that, beyond the central prison premises, nothing even compares to the previous regime.
“The first half of December will see the official opening of the prison wardens’ school,” he said.
He added that visitors from other countries are surprised to see that inmates have the option of contacting their families through Skype.
A zero-tolerance policy on matters of corruption was introduced, Nicolaou said, noting that the 30 investigators on the team handled 49 cases, of which seven are being heard in court, eight are being prosecuted, and the rest are still being investigated.
With regard to the public’s sense of safety for themselves and their properties, Nicolaou said serious crime dropped by 36.1 per cent, while the rate of cases successfully solved rose by 7.61 per cent.
“In 2012 robberies were 173, with cases solved at 39.88 per cent, burglaries were 2,953 and 31.66 per cent were solved, and thefts were 1,550 with 35.03 per cent solved,” the minister said.
“In 2016, robberies were 105, of which 52.38 per cent were solved, burglaries were 1,687 with 33.85 per cent solved, and thefts 722 with 48.61 per cent solved.”
Drugs, he said, were the only criminal activity that remained on the rise.
“In the five years from 2008 to 2012 2,312 cannabis plants were seized, while from 2013 to 2017 seizures were 4.174,” he said.
“In the same periods, cocaine seized jumped from 33 to 332 kilos, while ecstasy pill seizures rose from 11,923 to 19,331.”
The spike in the number of seizures, Nicolaou conceded, was attributable both to the increased effectiveness of law enforcement and increased demand for drugs.

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