The House legal affairs on Wednesday began discussions on the criminalisation of bullying, with a bill suggesting punishments ranging from hefty fines to prison time.

Discussions on bullying are taken very seriously, as it is a reality, committee chair Nicos Tornaritis said, adding that it has been criminalised in many European countries and beyond.

Tornaritis said the committee is determined to convey the message that “bullying, the marginalisation of any individual, any employee, anywhere, will not be tolerated”.

Akel MP Andreas Pashiourtides, who submitted the bill, said that the World Health Organisation describes the phenomenon of bullying as a major public health problem.

He added that his party has taken the initiative in recent months to raise public awareness, but also to formulate a modern integrated legislation on bullying, which according to him was very well received by those who attended the committee.

Pashiourtides said that through discussion in coming sessions and by consulting relevant bodies and unions wishing to help, the committee will begin the process of drafting a document on the criminalisation of bullying, as the phenomenon “is taking on alarming proportions”.

On the bill he submitted, he said it calls for amendments in the penal code to make bullying a standalone criminal offence punishable by up to two years in prison and €5,000 fines, which would climb to five years and €10,000 in case it was committed by someone in a position of power.

Asked if this would concern minors, he reminded that minors must be 14 years old or older to be criminally liable, and that legislation for juvenile delinquents was passed last year outlining how cases involving minors are handled, which includes alternative sentences.