NewsLocalTougher penalties eyed for arson in bid to protect forests

Tougher penalties eyed for arson in bid to protect forests

Proposals submitted to the House of Representatives and likely to go to the plenary on Friday will raise the penalty for deliberately setting fires from the current 14 to 20 years in jail.

The four bills were submitted by DISY’s Averoff Neophytou and Nicos Nouris and appeared to secure the backing of other MPs as well as authorities.

The hope is that they will be approved in the next plenary so that they can become applicable this summer.

They were discussed in the House Interior Committee on Monday with the Interior and Justice Ministries as well as the Forestry Department, Fire Department and police all voicing support.

Outlining the thinking behind the proposals, Nouris said that he was ready to consider even the confiscation of the property of those involved in the destruction of forests.

Interior Committee chairwoman Eleni Mavrou said that although increasing penalties was not the only deterrent, the spate of fires in recent years and the circumstances under which they broke out, make heavier penalties a deterrent.

Fire service chief Markos Trangolas expressed support for the proposals saying they would help prevent fires.

The bills propose the following penalties: up to 20 years in jail for deliberately setting fire to a forest. The maximum penalty currently stand at 14 years.

Attempts to deliberately set fires will carry penalties of up to 14 years in jail from the current seven.

For accidentally causing a fire (cigarette butt, matches etc) the penalty will be up to two years in jail (from the current one) and a fine of €6,000 (double today’s €3,000).

An amendment to the protection of forests law raises penalties from five to 10 years and the fine from €25,000 to €50,000.

And an amendment to the law on the prevention of fires in rural areas the penalty will rise from three to 10 years and the fine from €5,000 to €20,000.

The bills aim to making penalties so that they can serve as a deterrent.

The  fire services said that so far one person has been arrested for causing a fire by burning dry brush in Sykopetra, one in Kelokedara for operating machinery that set off a fire while a man suspected of being a pyromaniac was arrested  for causing 18 fires. Other arrests are of a  woman  in Polemidhia and of a man  in Kato Pyrgos.

Trangalsi said a number of other individuals were questioned but not arrested because they were given alibis by friends.



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