The Malta Independent 11 December 2019, Wednesday

Erin Tanti, one calamity after another

Andrew Azzopardi Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 09:44 Last update: about 7 months ago

What Erin Tanti was accused and found guilty of is despicable on so many levels. 

He had an improper and deplorable relationship with a minor.  He abused of his power when every educator is first and foremost an advisor and supporter and as her mentor and drama teacher he has completely warped how educationalists should behave.  To add insult to injury he drove this girl, a baby to her family, to commit suicide.  He blew off her candle instead of giving her hope.  He should have provided her with the necessary comfort she needed but instead he misused an opportunity to accompany this young girl in any tribulation she might have had at home and with herself.    

What Erin Tanti was doing was malicious, verging on evil, on so many levels.  The anger of Lisa Marie Zahra’s family is justified and befitting. 

Still, there are lessons that need to be learnt from this calamitous situation. 

Firstly.  The decision of this man to give up the opportunity to face a jury is rather bewildering.  Most defence lawyers use this system to their client’s favour.  It gives the lawyers the chance to itemize the issue.  So what was behind this 11th hour decision for Tanti to give up on this opportunity?  Was it just because the procedures per se would have had him crucified even more, possibly with a longer sentence?  Maybe the defence lawyers knew that Erin Tanti could never get a fair-minded trial after the hubbub this case created?  It’s a fact that trial by media removes every opportunity for a person and his/her reputation is overcome by a perception of guilt even before the courts of law even start the process. With all the media exposure and the lynching that took place at the time when this crime surfaced is a case in point.  “I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury,” said cunning old Fury; “I’ll try the whole cause, and condemn you to death.” (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll).

I think highly of the defence lawyers that assisted Erin Tanti.  Both Dr Michael Sciriha and Dr Lucio Sciriha are knowledgeable and took on a lose-lose complex case.  They must have tried to manage this situation but the system was soiled and would never allow for Erin Tanti to get the jury he was entitled for.  Even so, I am all for Erin Tanti to forfeit for his misdemeanours.   Now much as this case seems to have been straightforward and candid, what if the evidence in any other case was not as undisputable? Why should any accused’s presumption of innocence be thrown out of the window?

Secondly.  Erin Tanti’s judgement is also akin to a verdict that needs to be directed towards what contributed to him behaving in this way.  What led him to become the person he became?  Where was the school, the informal and formal networks, family and friends?  People do not need a crystal ball to realize that what happened was predictable.  I cannot believe that such conduct would go unnoticed.

Thirdly.  I am interested to know whether the people who employed him had done the mandatory due diligence.  Maybe at the time there wasn’t a warranting process but how come this man and the sleazy and crooked relationship he had with this underage girl go undetected, or was it ignored by people who should have known better?

Fourthly.  With all the running around that parents and family members are engaged in, do we have the structures in place that protect minors from such behaviour?  This power relationship is a major problem that we need to face up to.  With children being plonked in drama lessons, dance and sports activities whilst the parents rush back to work or run around with their other kids is frightening, leaving children and other vulnerable young people exposed to these predators. 

Fifth.  Was it the right thing to do for the University of Malta to interrupt Tanti from reading a course more so when the case had not even started?  I do not know the details of what made the UM authorities arrive at this decision but I believe that everyone should have a chance to be educated.  In fact, we’ve had drug traffickers, sex workers and a person accused of fraud (that I know of) who were allowed to read courses at University (and others at MCAST and other higher education institutions).  I would only have had a problem if someone had to be allowed to read a course that would automatically lead to a profession directly related to human interaction, before the case would have been heard.  Having said that there are enough checks and balances within every profession to regulate whether people are suitable to practice or not.

The case of Erin Tanti is as sad as they come. 

This young man has disbursed the life of this teenager that had everything to live for.  We now have a tragedy that has muddled up two families, ended with the ultimate misfortune of a lost life and a young man in prison for the next two decades.  The life of so many will never be the same.  I wonder, what could we have done better?

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