Accused in bullying case get suspended sentences

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A Larnaca district court handed an 18-month jail term, suspended for three years to three men found guilty of causing the death of a 16-year-old boy in 2019 after they had bullied him into consuming large quantities of alcohol.

The three men, now aged 20 from Oroklini, and two 19-year-olds from Larnaca and Livadia, were found guilty in October of causing Panayiotis Stefani’s death through negligence.

The men were prosecuted after evidence emerged; they had coerced Stefani into consuming large quantities of alcohol at a party in his village Troulli, Larnaca.

As a result, the teenager died of alcohol poisoning.

The court handed down non-custodial sentences as none of the defendants were adults at the time of the incident.

Evidence against the three men included videos they had recorded while bullying Stefani into drinking alcohol very quickly.

Toxicology test results found that his blood contained 340mg of alcohol.

Stefani had choked on his vomit, triggered by the large consumption of alcohol.

The men were also seen pressuring the teen into cursing former President and AKEL leader Demetris Christofias and football club Omonia Nicosia.

The trial was held behind closed doors.

A statement issued by the court said the bullying incident and the death of Panayiotis was evidence that society has failed in the self-evident task of educating its youth.

“The inevitable conclusion is society’s resounding failure, when we reach the point where the court is expected to punish because basic institutions failed in the self-evident, to act pre-emptively, to legislate, to educate, to inform, to intervene and to prevent such behaviours,” it said.

The ruling said video footage showed that people present had not intervened, but instead “… they applauded…saddening proof of society’s failure”.

“No penalty will bring Panayiotis back, and it will not reverse what has happened.”

The court suspended the jail sentence for three years, arguing that the defendants were minors at the time.

Addressing the defendants, who are currently studying abroad, the judge said they were given a second chance.

All three will be allowed to continue their studies, but they will remain at their declared address and must report to a probations officer regularly.

A probation officer will visit the defendants once a month and report back to the court every six months.