It is a great relief that deputies of the House legal affairs committee have decided to engage in further discussions before taking any decisions on the two law proposals that would allow suspects awaiting trial to serve time in their home under electronic monitoring.
The suspects under house detention would wear an electronic bracelet that would be monitored at a control centre, which would ensure they do not leave the premises. Deputies from all the parties on the legal affairs committee backed the ‘house remand’ proposals, claiming it would ease the overcrowding at the Nicosia central prison and safeguard the rights of suspects awaiting trial.
A judge would be given the option of ordering the house remand of a suspect awaiting trial, whereas until now this was the job of central prisons committee and was based on specific criteria a prisoner had to meet, such as being sentenced to no more than five years, having served half the sentence and been in the open prison. The bills proposed by the legislature would give judges the power to decide whether a suspect would be remanded in a cell or at home, wearing an electronic bracelet.
These proposals illustrated the superficiality with which deputies approach very serious matters. They had not bothered to specify in their law proposal, for example, what suspect would be eligible for the privilege of serving time at home. Could a suspected rapist, murderer, paedophile, drug trafficker, wife-beater wear the electronic bracelet at home? After Wednesday’s meeting, the committee chairman Nicos Tornaritis acknowledged that suspects held in connection with serious crimes should be ineligible, although the state legal services raised the issue of constitutionality.
Keeping suspects under house remand until their trial would give them free rein to influence or intimidate witnesses; they could even threaten victims. It is usually suspects facing charges for serious crimes that are held in prison until their trial and this makes perfect sense. Do our deputies now want them to stay at home to have more opportunities to influence the outcome of their trial?
Law commissioner Louiza Christodoulidou Zannetou, in a letter to the legal affairs committee, introduced some sanity, in expressing her disagreement with the idea. Among other things she wrote: “Τhis amendment in its attempt to create a more victim-friendly system forgets the protection of the victim, of society but more importantly, it affects the fairness of the trial if we consider how easily a suspect living in his home without 24-hour surveillance can influence or intimidate witnesses or even the victim himself.”
Perhaps, during the discussions deputies will hold they will allow common sense to prevail and forget the idea of house remand for suspects.