I will implement the following changes, subject to extensive consultation:
I will introduce a small claims court to inexpensively fast-track disputes below €10,000 to free up the court’s time, save everyone legal costs, and avoid having to wait several years for justice. No lawyers will be present during hearings, although they can advise on the paperwork to make a claim or defend it. Judges will optionally hold hearings via video link, and the decision will be final with no appeal mechanism.
In parallel, I will ensure arbitration and mediation via alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is attempted before taking a matter to the courts for commercial disputes over a certain value. This too will free up court time, so justice will be served more quickly than now.
[Personal clarification for transparency: although I am an accredited mediator in ADR, I have no interest whatsoever in earning fees from this initiative. However, this training will prove useful when negotiating a solution to the Cyprus problem with ‘TRNC’.]
The Supreme Court
I am against limiting Supreme Court appointments to 10 years, as proposed by some politicians. If a Supreme Court judge is forced to retire after 10 years’ service and is substantially below retirement age, it creates problems. The ex-judge could leave himself open to criticism for working as a consultant for a law firm or client whom s/he favoured in a previous judgement. This is very unfair to the ex-judge, who may be accused of being rewarded for past ‘favours’. My approach is radical. I do not doubt the integrity of any of the esteemed judges at the Supreme Court whatsoever, nor in any way do I imply corruption of any type. However, Cyprus has a small population with everyone knowing someone, particularly among the so-called elite and major law firms.
To avoid suspicion of possible bias or favouritism, I propose, with the approval of the Greek Government and courts, two of the best Supreme Court judges from Cyprus and Greece be swapped for 5-year secondments. This should be seen as a promotion and attract higher salaries. International courts use judges from several countries who are qualified to opine and create precedent. They are not experts on every legal matter across national jurisdictions.
Criminal justice reforms
- I will introduce community service as an optional alternative to fines and prison sentences by the courts. Those serving community sentences would still have their identities protected, under Cyprus’ strict privacy laws.
- I will commission a study with all stakeholders on introducing American-style plea bargaining for certain criminal offences. This will save time for our criminal courts.
- I will introduce mandatory driving bans for drink driving (perhaps 50-80mg) and for driving under the influence of drugs. All non-Cyprus driving licence holders who rent cars will have to hold a deposit on their credit cards as part of the customary rental deposit, but will include provisions for motoring offences. This will apply for 10 days after the car has been returned. If a person is caught drink or drug driving, or parking in disabled spaces, in addition to current laws and penalties, part of this deposit will be used to pay the fine. All car rental customers will be given a leaflet or email at booking clearly stating Cyprus’ punitive driving laws and alcohol limits based on the vehicle or buggy they are renting. I invite other EU countries to follow my lead.
- I will review the conditions at Nicosia prison and introduce additional incentives for those serving sentences so they can help our community from prison or out of prison under licence. It will be based on their academic background, work experience, and offence committed. It would be absurd to send someone who is in jail for repeat shop lifting offences, to work in a charity shop as a ‘volunteer’.
- I will commission a study on the feasibility of building an ‘open’ prison in a rural area to house jail inmates who are deemed not to be dangerous or a flight risk, for sentences of 24 months or less. This new prison could also be used for the last 12 months of a sentence, prior to release. Open prisons are far less expensive to run and will reduce the numbers currently in the central prison. Anyone escaping will be guilty of a serious criminal offence and when caught will be moved back to Nicosia central prison in handcuffs.
- I will introduce stricter penalties and enforcement for trafficking women and will deport pimps.
- I will operate a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ system. Repeat offenders for certain offences such as burglary, theft, and shoplifting will be dealt with punitively. If it’s to feed a drug problem, refer to my stance on drugs below.
- I will deport foreign national repeat offenders for criminal offences. It will be up to judges to show compassion in exceptional circumstances. Three strikes within 5 years and they’re out, on a plane. To protect close family, those deported for repeat minor offences may be allowed to return after a few years subject to a clean criminal record in their new country.
- Although less frequent in Cyprus than it used to be, begging with a small child who has been drugged or been given alcohol to look sickly will become enforced as a criminal offence. These children must be protected from such abuse at the hands of persons who often work in gangs to solicit money. If a young child is sick, they should not be on the street with their ‘mother’ or older ‘sister.’ I have total sympathy for homeless hungry beggars in countries with little or no welfare systems, but not professional ones working for gangs in EU countries, especially if they are receiving welfare payments from the state.
- I will introduce harsher penalties including deportation for anyone directly or indirectly involved in child marriages or the vile practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). School teachers and our border security officers will be trained to look for signs that a young girl who recently visited countries that practise child marriage or FGM appears disturbed. Furthermore, specialist teachers and social workers will be trained on how to discuss such matters privately and delicately at school, with girls from certain ethnic backgrounds.
- I will commission a study on geo-tagging juvenile offenders with ankle bracelets. This technology will enforce curfew at home in the evenings and/or weekends. Some countries sometimes send some juvenile offenders to holiday camps to show them ‘love’. My approach is to punish these ‘naughty little cherubs’ by grounding them and taking their mobile phones away, rather than being soft.
Our police force
I will support our police officers with new technology, working practices, and administrative staff. A detailed study will be commissioned with all stakeholders including unions to understand their pain points. My key pledges:
- Our police officers should not spend half their working day undertaking paperwork or answering phones. Additional part-time administrative staff will be hired to lessen this burden.
- I will explore the feasibility of temporarily sending respected Greek and Cypriot police officers on 3-year secondments to carry out covert operations abroad.
- I will discuss the implementation of body cameras for frontline officers.
- I will commission a study that will explore whether complaints against police officers, or at least appeals, should be independently handled abroad, perhaps in Greece.
- I will review benefits paid to officers who are maimed or die while performing their duties. These heroes should be honoured and fairly compensated by the state.
- A doctor is a doctor 24×7. A priest is always a priest. Likewise, I firmly believe that a police officer is always a police officer whether on duty or not, so I will discuss whether after several years of service, officers who volunteer to do so can be given dual-facing cameras and portable blue flashing lights to place on their private cars to enforce the law at any time. Volunteers would be paid additional allowances for this.
I will commission in-depth studies by international experts and the relevant ministries, after extensive public consultation, to recommend answers to these questions:
- Should possession of tiny quantities of marijuana for personal use smoked privately be decriminalised?
- If so, could participating licensed pharmacies be permitted to sell tiny quantities of marijuana per person subject to age verification and with warnings about possible psychosis and other dangers?
- Should medical marijuana for pain relief from cancer be legally obtainable from GESY doctors?
- Should hard drug use be treated as a mental illness rather than criminally?
- Could specialist GESY doctors supply repeat prescriptions and selected licensed pharmacists supply the addict with 3 days’ worth of certain hard drugs to use, or alternatives such as methadone? This could be conditional on the addict (i) registering as a drug addict, (ii) not having a criminal conviction in the last 12 months, (iii) being gainfully employed for at least 120 hours a month and paying social insurance, and (iv) actively seeking help.
The above will give hard drug users an incentive to stay out of trouble, petty theft and burglary to feed addiction will plummet, and the massive cost savings on police enforcement can be spent on nationwide anti-drug indoctrination education from age 7 using shock tactics. Furthermore, drug dealers will lose most of their customers and leave. I wish to make it absolutely clear that I do not seek expert opinion on whether to decriminalise hard drug use; rather I merely wish to establish whether the state should control supply for addicts subject to strict conditions.
All ministers will get a free vote and I will accept the decision before proposing it to parliament. I may even put aspects to the vote in a national referendum.0