The Malta Independent 20 March 2019, Wednesday

Defence lawyer argues that jealousy was probable reason behind rape claim

Thursday, 10 January 2019, 18:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Jealousy was the probable reason behind the claim made by a girl accusing her cousin of rape, the lawyer defending the accused has said.

Lawyers on both sides made their closing arguments as the trial of the young man accused of the rape and prolonged sexual abuse of a 10 year-old cousin of his continued today.

The 25-year-old, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the victim, has been indicted for participating in sexual activity with a minor and the corruption of his young cousin, between the ages of seven and 14, as well as an alleged single instance of rape.

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Yesterday morning, prosecuting lawyer Matthew Xuereb made a 3-hour summing up of the prosecution's arguments as the trial draws to a close.

The victim had been consistent in her version of events and had never varied, he said. She had opened up to her ex-boyfriend and her guidance teacher, he said. "Nobody likes to say they were being abused," said the lawyer. There was no evidence of her being a troublemaker, he said.

The accused on the other hand had a dominating character and with foresight had set up defences for eventual consequences of his actions, he said.

Victims' rights deserve protection and must be enforced, Xuereb said. Highlighting the difficulties faced by persons claiming abuse by family members, the lawyer said that cases like this shouldn't be hidden away but victims should be unafraid to come forward.

So truthful had the girl been, that she had admitted to making sexual advances to the accused on one occasion, he said, adding that this was testament to her confused state after all the years of abuse.

"She is not lying. Justice should not hide away such wrongdoing. This is a crime where unless we have gang rapes only two can tell the story," said the lawyer.

Defence: girl was obsessed with the accused

In a marathon session of closing arguments, Debono systematically attacked 228 points of the prosecution's case.

At the same time that she was holding hands with her boyfriend, she was approaching the accused for sex, Debono said, referring to the girl's testimony.

Debono appealed to judge's practical reasonableness, saying that it doesn't make sense that you'd post happy thoughts under a photo of your abuser and his girlfriend.

"I would expect to hear something about this from the prosecution," said the lawyer in a barb aimed at the prosecution.

Debono accused the girl of being obsessed with the accused, pointing to her fawning posts on Facebook.

"When ambition takes root the wrong way it leads to trouble," he stated. Debono read from screenshots of the girl's Facebook profile. "Perf couple" she had commented on pic of accused and his girlfriend.

"Someone who did something so abhorrent to you, he raped you, why would you write 'perfect couple'?" "'Keep the cute couple up,'" read the lawyer. "Why not to believe a witness," he said triumphantly.

Debono suggested that the girl could have been jealous of the happy couple.

Debono lashed out at the investigation, saying the police had badgered his client during his interrogation and listed people who could have been summoned to testify and weren't. Her ex boyfriend who was determining factor in her filing a police report, but was not summoned. No medical examination of the victim was made, he pointed out. "As a fifteen year old who gives the impression that it is her first and only penetration a doctor should have examined the girl," he said.

If subjected to sexual abuse over several years, a young girl would have physical signs, Debono explained.

"All this apart from her own admission to having approached him sexually herself on one occasion," Debono said.

The victim's account had been very short on detail, added the lawyer, pointing out that it was the court that had to ask her whether the accused had ejaculated. The timeframes are also very hazy, he said, and added that it was unlikely that a person who claimed to hate her body would then go dancing at carnival.

The house was too small and crowded and the doors were never locked. An elliptical mirror near the kitchen makes the house less safe for a potential abuser, as it reflected activity from the end of the house into the kitchen.

Debono's lengthy submissions are expected to continue tomorrow, after which the judge is expected to hand down judgment.

Lawyers Nadia Attard, Matthew Xuereb and Charles Mercieca from the Office of the Attorney General are prosecuting.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Anita Giordmaina are defence counsel.

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