Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis has weighed in on reported incidents of animal abuse during a shocking Paralimni school prank, saying she is in favour of juvenile offenders doing community service at an animal shelter.
Yiolitis, who gave an interview at a local television channel, said she was concerned over the animal abuse incidents in Paralimni while noting that the offenders were underage.
“We have to take into account that the offenders are minors, and this took place at a school,” Yiolitis said.
The minister, who has been an advocate of legislating rehabilitation for young delinquents as well as adult offenders, said she was in favour of a current bill that would create animal police and also give judges more tools in dealing with juvenile delinquency, essentially pushing for more alternative sentencing options.
“This bill, which is under discussion in Parliament right now, is a very important piece of legislation that would give us the tools to rehabilitate these kids,” Yiolitis said, adding that pupils who are under 18 are still at a life stage where certain behaviours can be modified.
The minister said she was in favour of a current bill that would create animal police and also give judges more tools in dealing with juvenile delinquency
“If they could perform community service at an animal shelter, for example, which is something that will be available as a tool for judges if the juvenile delinquency bill passes the House, they could in fact be able to see exactly what is animal care all about, what does it mean to have a pet and the kinds of emotions associated with that,” Yiolitis said.
“I think this could help enormously,” the minister added.
Law enforcement authorities are looking into a number of criminal offences in connection with last week’s Paralimni high school prank that involved the torturing and/or death of animals.
A group of 12th grade high school seniors and some 11th graders, some of whom were captured on video, were throwing smoke bombs, firecrackers, and flares in the main courtyard, along with live animals as well as injured or dead birds that had perished overnight after being stolen and kept in bags. Reports said the birds were possibly intended to be released during the morning prank but had died of asphyxiation.
Police launched an investigation a day after the incident, with reports saying some 20 students had been identified or pointed out, while it was unclear whether they believed they knew who might have been the instigators.
Some reports said there were non-students involved, while multiple offences were being examined including possible charges over rioting, unlawful assembly, trespassing, theft, animal abuse, and illegal possession of explosives.
Similar back-to-school battlefield-style pranks took place in a number of other high schools on the same day, but reports of animal abuse emerged only in Paralimni.
Critics said youths in all districts were susceptible to influence by others who may exhibit abusive behaviour towards animals.
Yiolitis said she was in favour of rehabilitating both young and old, while also reiterating that one of her main priorities was setting up an animal control unit that could also act as animal police.