Cyprus Mail

Children’s watchdog calls for end to indiscriminate pardons

The central prison in Nicosia

By George Psyllides

The head of a children’s watchdog on Thursday handed President Nicos Anastasiades her recommendations relating to the release of child molesters from prison on presidential pardon, mainly suggesting scrapping the practice of indiscriminate presidential pardons.

Anastasia Papadopoulou, head of the council for the implementation of the national strategy to fight sexual abuse and exploitation of children and child pornography, had been tasked by Anastasiades with drafting strict criteria relating to the release of convicted child molesters from prison after one was scandalously released early and returned home unbeknown to his victim, who lives in the same area.

Publication of the event in September forced the Anastasiades to apologise and say that the man was released under the established practice of the president, with the agreement of the attorney-general, suspending one-quarter of an inmate’s sentence, “irrespective of the offences committed, bar certain exceptions”.

The man had been sentenced to three years in jail and was meant to be released on March 29, 2019.

It transpired that it was the age criteria set by the justice ministry that made the man’s early release possible.

Apart from lifers, the criteria exclude from pardon those convicted for sexual offences against minors up to 13-years-old, or against minors up to the third degree of kinship. The victim in this case was over 13.

A source told the Cyprus Mail at the time that the criteria had been drafted by the justice ministry and conveyed to the attorney-general a few days after Anastasiades’ re-election last February. The source said the criteria was not only specific to child molesters but it also included other offences.

On Thursday, Papadopoulou said she had a lengthy meeting with Anastasiades, during which she delivered a detailed document recommending certain principles.

The principles must above all safeguard the president’s constitutional right but also the status of the institution.

She said the president studied the document carefully and it appeared they were on the same page regarding what the next steps should be to draft a code that will guide pardoning from now on.

It is understood that the key recommendation calls for scrapping wholesale pardoning and setting up a system that would be taking into account individual circumstances.

Papadopoulou said however, that publication of the offenders’ names should be avoided.

“Eighty per cent of sexual offenders against children are committed within the child’s family circle. Revealing the offender’s identity would indirectly and inevitably reveal the victim’s identity,” she said.

The priority of any policy should be victims first, she added.

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