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Coronavirus: man jailed for 45 days for visiting his girlfriend during curfew (updated)

A 35-year-old Famagusta man was jailed for 45 days on Tuesday after he broke curfew to visit his girlfriend.

The man was caught by police just after 9pm in Dherynia on March 25, when the curfew was in effect between 9pm and 6am.

The defendant told police he violated restrictions “because he decided to visit his girlfriend.”

The court said the situation with the virus forced Cyprus and other countries to impose restrictions aiming at stopping its spread.

It added that the restrictions have dramatically changed the way of life of the majority of people, the ones, that is, who choose to comply with the orders.

At the same time, “some people think they are above the law and their fellow citizens, they ignore orders and continue their life as if nothing is going on.”

Such behaviour, the court said, “is certainly unacceptable and one such case concerns the defendant who simply decided at night to go see his girlfriend.”

“All offences that violate the laws relating to public health are very serious, but in the case in question, under the circumstances, become especially serious,” the court said.

In the face of such behaviours, courts must perform their important role in society but also convey the right messages; the courts’ response must be immediate, strong, and clear.

“This can only be done through the imposition of strict and deterring penalties.”

For advocate Achilleas Demetriades the sentence was unprecedented.

“I have not read the actual judgement but based on what has been reported in the media, this was an offence under the law on quarantine where the defendant was given a custodial sentence,” Demetriades told the Cyprus Mail.

He said that according to the law, offenders face up to six months in prison and or up to a €3,000 fine.

“It is unprecedented and does not appear to me to comply with any sentencing practice in the Republic,” Demetriades said.

He explained that normally a custodial sentence is the last resort. “I cannot understand why it was appropriate in these circumstances when I understand the defendant had no criminal record and did not pose any threat to society,” he said.

“We do not know whether the judge considered the possibility of a non-custodial sentence,” he said, adding that the judge could have imposed home confinement to the defendant with the help of an ankle bracelet of community service.

Demetriades also raised the issue of prison overcrowding.

“On top of all this, I find the judge insensitive to the fact that the defendant will now have to be exposed to the risk of contracting coronavirus by being in prison where we know there is overcrowding which leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.

Demetriades pointed out that the government is looking for ways to tackle the overcrowding problem in the central prison.

Around 130 prisoners were released recently as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the island’s only correctional facility. A rights group however, said the overpopulation problem persisted as the Central Prisons have a capacity of about 450 people, but they currently house around 700.

The cabinet has recently set up an ad hoc committee to study and propose solutions for the prison’s chronic overpopulation problem. The committee is expected to come up with its proposals within six months, based on the recommendations of local, European and international rights institutions.

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