Lighter terms pledged for young offenders

Fewer underage offenders will end up in prison, because community service, the payment of compensation to crime victims and foster care will be offered as alternatives under draft legislation presented yesterday. Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos said the new bill will raise the age ceiling for underage offenders from 17 to 18, while the minimum age will be set at 8 years. Minors will only be sent to prison for violent crimes, «professional» or protracted criminal activity, or repeat offenses. There will also be greater scope for appeals. Furthermore, offenders will be offered the option of apologizing to their victims and settling out of court, while judges will be able to commit underage criminals to the care of foster families. In February, Petsalnikos said adult offenders convicted for up to three years would soon be allowed to do community service instead.