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Tighter controls on sex offenders in the works, Nicolaou says

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou

A bill to amend the existing law on the Prevention and Combating of Sexual Exploitation, Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography, provides for victims to be informed of the release date of their assaulter, Justice Minister, Ionas Nicolaou, said on Friday.

The bill aims to cover gaps and omissions found in the law since 2014 when it entered into force. After it is approved by the cabinet, it will be sent to parliament for discussion.

During the presentation of the bill, Nicolaou said that the aim was to expand the powers of the Surveillance Authority of Sentenced Persons for Sexual Offences Against Minors so that it can carry out its mandate effectively. The authority, as well as an archive of convicted child sex offenders, was established in 2014. Currently, 25 persons are being monitored by the authority.

“The purpose is also to enable law enforcement authorities to inform the victim or his or her guardian or representative of the possible date of release of the sentenced person,” Nicolaou said.

The provision in question follows the public outcry last year over the early release of a man convicted of sexually abusing a minor. The man returned to his home, to live without supervision in the same neighbourhood as his victim who was unaware of the man’s release.

Nicolaou analysed the amendments noting that the new proposed law provides for the possibility of the court to impose restrictive measures after the sentence has been imposed or even after the convict has been released. It also provides for the expansion of the restrictive measures the court may impose.

In addition to the restrictive measures provided for in the existing legislation, Nicolaou said, the court would be able to impose one or more of the following measures: a ban on entering or staying in the victim’s home or of other children, in a school or a place where the victim or other children frequent, a ban on driving in areas where children or the victim frequent, a ban on the person convicted of contacting or communicating with the victim or his / her family or with any child. The court will also be able to ban perpetrators from accessing specific internet sites, from possessing or using material that might cause sexual stimulation and from possessing, buying or consuming alcohol.

As regards the surveillance authority, the minister said that the proposed bill provides for the possibility of hiring persons for the supervision of convicted paedophiles after their release.

Permanent secretary of the justice ministry and head of the surveillance authority, Andreas Assiotis, said that, since 2014, the authority has monitored 33 convicted paedophiles after their release.

At the moment, he said, 25 persons are being monitored by the authority. He said that the authority has asked for a surveillance decree on another 10 persons.

Assiotis said that gradual increase observed in the number of persons being monitored after 2014 also highlights the great importance of the surveillance authority’s work.

The experience gained from the authority’s four years of operation, he said, has identified the need to amend the existing legislation as at this stage the authority is not given sufficient powers to effectively exercise its role and to impose substantial measures beyond the monitoring programmes offered by the competent services.

The authority will also be able to expand the measures it can impose on a convicted paedophile such as house arrest, the obligation to report to a police station, participation in therapy programmes, the obligation to inform authorities of their new home or work address in case they change their job or move. They would also be obliged to inform authorities if they leave the country.

MPs heard last year that convicted paedophiles who have been released from prison are visited once a week by social workers or psychiatrists, who then report to the Surveillance Authority. The authority convenes about once a month and reviews individual files of sex offenders. The archive is kept by the police. Sex offenders are currently offered treatment on a voluntary basis.

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