Life imprisonment for those found guilty of child sex abuse will be imposed by the Assizes, which will also have the power to impose additional penalties such as deprivation of a right to work in places frequented by children and monitoring of the offender after release.
The draft law, which was approved by the Cabinet after much delay and is before the House, includes a number of changes which must be made to national laws in order for Cyprus to fulfil European obligations, but more importantly to combat the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
What is for certain is that parliament should complete its work as soon as possible, as Cyprus should have moved on to pass the bill last December. It is reported that the draft law which has to do with the handling of paedophiles is now before the House Legal Affairs Committee and is under review.
Based on the provisions of the bill, all offences of a sexual nature against children will be punishable by up to 25 years in prison. In cases involving children under 13, the provision is life imprisonment. This means that once the penalties are more than five years, cases of sexual abuse/exploitation of children will be dealt with by the Criminal Court rather than the District Court.
The bill also covers offences which are classed under 'special relationship with abuse or vulnerable or trusting relationship', which refers to a perpetrator which is related to the child who may be "dependent" as for example, a teacher. The bill also includes offences regarding the "solicitation of children online". In particular, the bill provides that even meeting a child with the aim of a sexual act is an offence punishable by 10 years imprisonment.
The same applies to cases where adults try to promote child pornography over the internet - such as an adult asking a child to send nude pictures.
Ignorance about the victim's age is no defence - it cannot be argued that the perpetrator didn't know the victim's age. Additionally, the claim that the perpetrator attained the victim's consent is also not admissible.
Moreover, the bill provides procedures related to the treatment and handling of children by the examination authority from the beginning of the case. That is, it provides that the child should give a deposition to experts, to people of the same sex, and that interviews depositions should be video recorded.
Conviction records will also be kept by the police, such as DNA samples. Data and evidence from this record will never be deleted, neither will convictions for offences of this nature be deleted from the criminal record of the offender.