A bill that would empower harassment and stalking victims is being delayed in the House in order for MPs to seek input from the legal department.
New legislation, which would make it easier for judges to issue restraining orders, will introduce clearer language on stalking and harassment, including imposing harsher penalties and simplifying how civil lawsuits can be filed.
Discussion on the bill, which has been in the works for two years, has been halted for two weeks in order for the Legal Services Department to address concerns in the House legal committee regarding special terminology and procedures.
The draft legislation reportedly will provide for an increase in the sentencing of convicted stalkers based on the intensity of the offence as well as the amount of psychological stress inflicted upon their victims.
Sentencing could be up to five years behind bars and/or a €10,000 fine based on the severity of damages against victims
Sentencing will range from a minimum of one year in prison and/or a €2000 fine to five years behind bars and/or a €10,000 fine, with judges having leeway to increase sentence based on the severity of damages against the victims.
MP Aristos Damianou, from left opposition party Akel, said it was about time for the Republic of Cyprus to fall in line with anti-stalking legislation based on the Istanbul Convention.
Officials have said there were loopholes in the system, leaving citizens undefended against harassment. With 90% of stalking victims being women, many stalkers follow their victims to a point where they are causing stress or striking fear without committing any crime.
Another MP from centre opposition Edek, Costis Efstathiou, said stalking and harassment can reach levels where the lives of people are disrupted. But he also said the proposed bill has many weak spots which could make combating harassment and stalking more difficult.
The Oroklini case study
Previous media reports took the issue a step further, citing members of the committee in 2017 who pointed to serious cases, including an attempted murder-suicide in Oroklini back in 2013 when cops could not make an arrest prior to a crime of passion.
The incident involved a 50-year-old man who was trying to get back together with his former lady friend, a 32-year-old Romanian woman. But she kept rejecting him and he kept persisting until one day he shot and wounded her and then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. There was no restraining order against him.
One point which has yet to be ironed out, during the next House committee hearing in two weeks, is whether everyone is on the same page on family intervention and privacy of phone records, two pieces of legislation that could impact the proposed bill and remain a sticking point ahead of a tentative vote in March.