The state legal service confirmed on Thursday it has appealed a court decision sentencing a 48-year-old man to four years in jail for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl with mild mental disabilities, arguing that the sentence was insufficient.
The decision was taken on Wednesday. The legal service argued that the concurrent four-year prison sentences for offences involving the sexual abuse of the victim were insufficient.
Since the case was brought to the fore this week by child watchdog Foni (Voice) which criticised the court for ignoring the aggravating factors of the case when deciding the punishment, there has been strong public and political reaction over the lenient sentence.
The watchdog described the four-year jail sentence for the man as insufficient saying the law provided for a maximum sentence of life.
The court jailed the 48-year-old man after he was found guilty on two counts of sexually assaulting the minor in his home, which the victim would visit as she was friends with his children.
The sexual offences were committed between June 2016 and May 2017 when the girl was 14-15 years old.
In its ruling, the court took into account the 48-year-old’s clean criminal record, and the fact that he remained in custody for 18 months because he was unable to fulfil his bail conditions.
Attorney-general Costas Clerides had said this week that the state legal service was looking into appealing the decision.
Children’s Rights Commissioner Leda Koursoumba said earlier in the week she was also disappointed by the court decision, given that he could have been jailed for life.
Such lenient decisions, she said, are contrary to the commitment of the state to fight one of the “most hideous crimes plaguing society”.
Koursoumba said that based on what has been made public, as she did not have access to the court’s decision, the nature of the offence, the age of the girl, the relationship with the adult through her friendly contact with his children, and her partial mental disability, was enough to show that the penalty imposed “can reasonably be regarded as at the very least lenient”.
The court, she said, did not appear to have taken into account law provisions “according to which, sexual abuse of a child, which, due to mental or physical disability is in a vulnerable position, is subject to life imprisonment”.