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Delays in legal procedures

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The difficulties that the legal system is facing in Cyprus is quite known locally, as well as abroad.  The situation is now so bad that various international agreements refer to arbitration or the agreement is subject to foreign law courts, such as in the U.K.  This is absolutely terrible for a country that aims to become an international financial centre, to be forced to refer to another country’s legal system.

It is an impossible situation since there are approximately 10,000 legal cases submitted to the Courts every year, with only 1,000 (i.e. 10%) out of those new ones are heard on average, plus an average delay nowadays of 3-5 years.  Then and upon issue of a court decision, the parties may submit an appeal that it might take anything from 2 to 3 years (and increasing).  What sort of a legal state do we have in this country?

The result of this delay is that justice is gradually breaking down with people not bothering to a large extent to ascertain their rights, the period of wait meaning added costs, whereas the constant postponement (13 times in one of our cases) cost our client without placing our foot through the court’s door, some €2,500 so far.

These sort of affairs have encouraged those at fault to keep doing it, no payment of rents and other dues, and in general we get the impression that the whole system is breaking down.  Increasing the number of judges on the bench is not the absolute answer, whereas the economic situation has increased the litigation cases to the extent that even if the number of judges increase by 20%, there will be no notable improvement in terms of decision time.

As if this situation is not enough ,we are now seeing signs of “bouncers” of all sorts, taking the place of the police and even a new type of judges.

It is not unknown that in case of debts, some people use bouncers to collect their dues, where an ex-Mafia boss in a certain town was acting like a judge, to whom differences between individuals are resolved after a “hearing”.  Duly seated on a raised podium with the judge’s hammer there, he provides his services for those who wish to do so. His decision is enforced by bouncers, applying the decision.

Another problem to start legal action, is to be able to serve the writ.

Official court officers either do not bother or are “on the take” by reporting that they could not find the party to serve them with the court writ.

End result in one of our cases and after using a court officer, (the case involved a non-paying tenant) was that we shut the electricity mains supply, the so far non-found tenant tried to put the meter right upon which he was caught and served with the writ. An Al Capone behaviour works, but is this the way?

Part of the problem is our own advocates who usually ask for a postponement.

When considering that each postponement is charged around €150 – 200, no doubt that the opposing advocate does not object to the postponement.  To this end the lack of judges or court time encourages this state of affairs.  For our part and for amounts that people owe us less than €1,000 we do not bother to take legal action, since the legal cost and our own time spent in court (postponement or not) is several times is in excess of our claim.

To be honest, there are similar reports on “Mafia business” in other countries, especially in Italy, but we never thought that this sort of a situation will happen in Cyprus.

Perhaps, Italy and other countries have a similar problem as we do, but are a few years ahead of our time.  In addition to Italy, other European and US states have a similar problem and a similar way of solving differences, but for this to happen in small countries where more or less everybody knows everybody is a difficult situation to understand.

To a large extent the tolerance in our country is much due to our fault.  Our attitude of “let the other be” is one way of handling a situation, but to encourage all sorts of “permissive” illegalities, this is another subject.

Efforts are underway to address this state of affairs to an extent.  This includes the introduction of various professionals to become arbitrators, the Technical Chamber of Commerce is an addition based on its’ members experience acting as an independent arbitrator or witness on technical matters, but until such time that these bodies become effective and accepted or adopted by the public, it will take several year.

So, what do we do in the meantime?  In any case, any arbitration decision may be subject to a civil court appeal, so, at the end of the day we are back to square one.

 

By Antonis Loizou F.R.I.C.S. – Antonis Loizou & Associates EPE – Real Estate Valuers & Estate Agents

www.aloizou.com.cy

[email protected]