NICOSIA - Cyprus aims to modernise its juvenile justice system with emphasis placed on preventing and reducing youth offending, Minister of Justice Ionas Nicolaou has said.
Speaking before a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development in Nicosia, Nicolaou said authorities are already putting into practice innovative measures that will eventually become part of legislative framework.
“These measures place emphasis on resolving social disputes by avoiding the criminal judicial process.”
According to the minister, this takes place through mediation for restoration of damages caused by young offenders and by developing a sense of responsibility and awareness of the justice system via the use of sanctions which do not involve incarceration.
“The goal is to educate young offenders while at the same time limiting the sanctions that would involve them being placed in custody,” said Nicolaou, adding that this approach is generally applied for first time offenders who have committed less serious crimes.
“It has been proven both scientifically and in practice that such measures are efficient,” said the Minister. “We are therefore proceeding with establishing such practices into the existing framework.”
Nicolaou added that the main guidelines followed place emphasis on education rather than the imposition of penalties thus supporting underage offenders instead of punishing them.
“Giving prison sentences to young offenders is the last resort followed by the courts and there are very few cases where juveniles have been jailed.”
In cases where this happens, according to Nicolaou, underage offenders are kept separate from the general prison population.
“Young offenders are always treated differently from adult criminals as they are given the option to take part in recreational and educational programmes that are designed to help them reintegrate in society.”