The Ministry of Justice is in search of a suitable place in order to create a place of detention for children who are in conflict with the law, that is, who are sentenced to prison or are detained as suspects for the commission of criminal offenses.
It is essentially the creation of a penitentiary center for children up to the age of 21 outside the Central Prison. The Council of Ministers, in its recent session, after receiving extensive information from the Minister of Justice, Mr. Stefi Drakou, gave the green light for the creation of juvenile prisons through the process of concluding public contracts. Authorizing, at the same time, the Minister of Finance to allocate the required credits.
Not in Latsia
The Ministry of Justice initially suggested the detention of juvenile offenders inside the treatment center for minors in Agia Skepi in Latsia. However, the proposed solution was not accepted by the Cyprus Addiction Treatment Authority, which funds this treatment center, citing the following reasons:
- The coexistence of a penitentiary center with a treatment center is in conflict with the philosophy of the National Strategy for dealing with addictions 2021 – 2028, while there is no relevant precedent in Europe.
- The coexistence of the two structures can be an important deterrent to voluntary participation in treatment.
From 25 to 10 beds
The Ministry of Finance, in a letter to the Ministry of Justice, stated that as a matter of principle it agrees with the creation of a penitentiary center for minors. However, he asked for some additional information / clarifications regarding the operating costs of the space and the need to create such a space. Based on the information and clarifications provided by the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Finance replied with a second letter that it agrees with the announcement of offers for the creation of a new space, but with a capacity of 10 beds instead of 25 beds proposed by the Ministry of Justice in the first stage. .
The new law for children
The creation of detention facilities for juvenile offenders outside the Central Prison is provided for in the new legislation that was voted by the plenary session of the Parliament last April. It is entitled “On the Establishment of a Child-Friendly Criminal Justice System” and aims to prevent and address juvenile delinquency through the establishment of new structures and procedures of decriminalization.
In particular, the law defines juvenile offenders as special detention facilities outside prisons, which will be specially adapted for the detention of children and will ensure the exercise of their rights, regardless of the restriction of their personal freedom, and will meet the standards. and conditions to be determined in a decree issued by the respective Minister of Justice. The ministerial decree will specify the places of restraint for minors, as well as their operating regulations, the measures to be taken to protect children and to ensure their continuing education or vocational training during restraint, as well as and their rights and their obligation to comply with regulations. Furthermore, the law stipulates that for one year from the date it will enter into force, ie until 20/4/2022, the convicted minors will be able to be kept in prisons. Therefore, the Ministry of Justice should find and operate detention facilities for juveniles outside the Central Prison by April 2022. Also, the new legislation provides for the creation of the institution of a custodian who will act as a liaison between the Police and other public authorities. or those exercising parental responsibility. The custodian will play an important role in the child's arrest, interrogation and decriminalization program. To this end, the Parliamentary Finance Committee recently released the amount of € 189,000 in order for the Ministry of Justice to launch the procedures for the selection and hiring of curators.
Only over 14 years old
A basic rule of the new regulations is that the prosecution and detention of minors up to the age of 21 will be the last resort which will be imposed only if any other measures have been tried and failed. Children under the age of 14 will not be held criminally liable for their acts and omissions, while, in any case, the imputation of a crime to children over the age of 14 will depend on their age and degree of maturity and development. On the procedure: in case any criminal offense against a minor is substantiated, the case file will be sent to the Legal Service. The Attorney General will be able to suspend the criminal prosecution of the child and refer him to a trial program. The goal is twofold: on the one hand, to help the child understand the consequences of the offense he has committed and to accept his responsibility so that he does not commit any other criminal offense in the future, and on the other hand, to avoid being brought to justice for the offense he committed before court.
Penalties for minors
The law provides for the establishment and operation of Juvenile Courts. Bringing a child to court will be the last step to be taken by a decision of the Attorney General, after the inclusion of a child in the decriminalization program was tried and failed. The children who will be brought to justice will be tried by the Juvenile Courts. In particular, the law stipulates that in each province a Juvenile Court is established, the trials should be short and take place in camera. In the event that the Juvenile Court, after hearing the case, finds the child guilty of an offense, it may either simply reprimand the child and acquit him of any other measure, or impose a penalty on him, or proceed further with the case. and make one or more of the following decisions:
- Exemption or conditional exemption.
- Imposition of a fine or payment of expenses or compensation to the victim by the child.
- An order obliging the parent or guardian to pay compensation to the child victim.
- Parental supervision decree.
- Community surveillance order. The court may issue a Community work order in relation to a child found guilty of an offense between the ages of 16 and 18. The Community Work Decree will specify the number of working hours per week that the child will be required to contribute to Community programs, either without pay or in part, at the discretion of the court.
- Detention order in Juvenile Prisons. In any case, the imposition of detention in a child detention facility is prohibited by law in relation to children under the age of 16 at the time of the court decision and will constitute the final sentence, which may be imposed by the court only if other alternative sentences have been tried.
- Monitoring order with electronic bracelet. In this case, the child will be at home under restraint.
- The court may, as in the case of a child who is a drug user, order his admission to a detoxification center and impose any conditions relating to such admission or stay in that detoxification center, which may also be closed.