Bishop gets 12-month suspended jail term

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Former Larnaca Bishop Chrysostomos received a 12-month suspended prison sentence after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in a historic case 42 years ago.

The decision was announced amid a loud protest outside the Larnaca Court, with protesters – calling him a ‘rapist’ – jeering the suspended sentence.

The Larnaca District Court, after an earlier hearing for mitigation, delivered the sentence on Thursday, taking into account the former bishop Chrysostomos’ advanced age, now 85, and his health issues.

Announcing the sentence in a packed courtroom, Judge Evi Efthymiou said the penalty was imposed based on legislation in force at the time of the offence, which was considered a misdemeanour, and which provided for a penalty of up to two years or a fine of 1500 Cyprus pounds or both.

However, the Court also “found that the bishop had plans to isolate the complainant”.

As the judge noted, the bishop had arranged for the appointments to take place on Saturday afternoon so that he could meet her himself.

“He tried to impress her with his travels.

“He chose his victim, a 16-year-old girl seeking financial assistance.

“Instead of helping her, he chose to attack her in an obscene manner, in my opinion. The circumstances of the offence were humiliating”.

Efthymiou added that the bishop was 27 years older than the girl, which was also an aggravating factor.

“I cannot ignore that the complainant ended up needing psychiatric help,” she added.

The Court ruled that “the only appropriate penalty is imprisonment; any other punishment would be an act of tolerating such offences.

However, the judge ruled that “the exercise of discretion in favour of suspension is justified”.

On May 15, the former bishop was found guilty of assaulting a teenage girl, aged 16 in 1981, in a historic decision.

This is the first time a high-ranking cleric has been found guilty of a sex crime.

He was found guilty after a year-long trial, which ended with the Larnaca District Court finding the testimony of the now 58-year-old victim and the defence witnesses credible.

The woman pressed charges in 2021, 40 years after the alleged incident when she had visited the bishop seeking financial help after losing her father in 1981.

In its decision, the Court said the time that had passed until the complaint was made does not override its severity.

Scandal

The Court argued that the defendant “was a high-ranking priest, subject to the rules of the high priesthood.

“How was it possible for a 16-year-old to denounce a high priest? Even today, it is a scandal, let alone then”.

This was the second time Chrysostomos has appeared before a court on sexual assault charges.

In a separate rape case, another woman alleged that Chrysostomos offered her an alcoholic beverage before proceeding to rape her.

Chrysostomos refused to take the stand, handing in an unsworn statement denying the rape, while his lawyers claimed he was not mentally fit to stand trial.

The Larnaca Criminal Court acquitted him of rape in October 2021 after accusing the victim of making contradictory statements.

Meanwhile, at least six more women have come forward with complaints of sexual misconduct against the cleric.

Following the landmark case, the Holy Synod must decide how it will handle the convicted cleric.

The Synod has three options when it convenes on June 13.

One option is to defrock the former bishop, prohibit him from conducting church services and preaching, or confine him to a monastery.