The story of Maria and Hannah (not their real names) was widely reported by the paper a few months ago, when delays spanning over four years resulted in the little girl’s case being thrown out of court. The reason given by the Attorney-general’s office was that so much time had lapsed, the child was no longer a reliable witness.
To add insult to injury, Maria has herself been in court for months to defend herself against contempt charges, filed by the father for not allowing him to see his daughter.
Maria said her daughter refused to see her dad – to the point of despair – and there was no way she was going to force her to do otherwise.
Now she has been found guilty of two out of 11 contempt charges and ordered to pay a €1,000 fine.
“There was no imprisonment due to detrimental effects on child,” Maria explained yesterday.
“The mitigation put forward by us was rejected by the court regarding specific circumstances, such as the state doctors’ medical examination [dated February 20, 2004] being in the mother’s favour as mitigating factor – any mother would be in a very bad psychological state and would have reacted or acted worse in many instances,” she added.
Now Maria is finding it hard to pay the fine, which must be settled within a month. “a request to pay monthly by my lawyer was dismissed, despite the fact I am a single mother, lost my job due to attending court three to four days a week , receive only £75 maintenance from the father and in addition had expenses for a therapist to treat [Hannah] weekly.”
Maria told the court that nothing had changed and Hannah still refuses to see her father.
“We need practical help in our situation,” she explained. “Ours is not a normal access situation created by a divorce. I will visit Social Services and take advice, perhaps if a social worker could be present at our house to listen to [Hannah] and see her behaviour?”
She added, “I could call the police, but they inform me they do not become involved in family matters, and I do not want [Hannah] disturbed any more than necessary.
“[Child Commissioner] Mrs Koursoumba surely could intervene in our situation, listen, and enforce [Hannah’s] Child Rights.”
Contacted by the Cyprus Mail last week, Leda Koursoumba said she was trying as best she could to deal with all the cases she has been assigned. However, she is still awaiting the state to appoint staff for her office, which she is currently having to handle with just one other officer.
By Jacqueline Theodoulou, Cyprus Mail, July 24, 2008