Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited on Thursday the "Home of the Child" facility in the Athens coastal district of Paleo Faliro, which is the first specially designed space for taking depositions and examining child victims of serious crime.
He was shown around by the resident psychologist, Sotiria Nika, and briefed on the procedures and protocols for assessing the mental state of each child and helping them feel that they are in a safe and friendly environment, where in collaboration with law enforcement and judicial authorities they can be carefully questioned by a specially trained psychologist in accordance with international standards.
After the tour, Mitsotakis noted that the government had made significant progress in issues involving children and justice.
"What you are doing is very significant. I very much wanted to come and see this space because I have seen how much progress we have made," the prime minister said, noting that the space bore no resemblance to a police station or other institution.
Experts at the centre said that the protocols for assessing the mental state of each child helped avoid a secondary victimisation of traumatised children and minimised the chance that further interviews will be needed, providing them a space where they can talk about their traumatic experiences and provide information that can help solve crimes committed against them.
The centre has been in operation since December 2021 and has so far handled more than 80 incidents, making the justice system significantly more child-friendly and protective of children. There has also been an increase in the reports of abuse, which as the prime minister noted, "was in itself significant".
As an example, Nika related the story of a child so severely traumatised by its experiences that it had been unable to speak at all and spoke for the first time in three years after an interview in which it had pantomimed evidence about the people that had harmed it.
Mitsotakis also noted changes in the penal code for crimes targeting minors, noting that these were now prosecuted automatically, while the period in which such crimes can become statute barred only begins to elapse after the victims reach maturity.
These changes had bumped Greece up from the lowest position in the EU Justice Scoreboard in 2019 to one of the highest in 2022, he pointed out.
"It is good for everyone to know this from now on: that there is not only the will but also the tools for dealing with these horrible acts with the maximum possible severity," the prime minister said.
He noted that the facility served a dual role: both as a means to collect evidence to try such crimes but also as a first step toward healing.
Two "Home of the Child" facilities currently operate in Athens and Pireaus, where there are the greatest number of reported cases, while another is due to open in Thessaloniki in the first half of 2023 and a building is being renovated for this purpose in Heraklion, Crete.
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