The Malta Independent 18 September 2021, Saturday

Man accused of sexually molesting nine-year-old step-granddaughter

Friday, 23 July 2021, 14:53 Last update: about 3 months ago

A man has been charged with sexually molesting a young girl with the court hearing how she suffered severe psychological trauma from three alleged incidents.

The 42-year-old from Żurrieq, who cannot be named by court order, was arraigned this afternoon before Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo by Inspector Joseph Busutti. He was charged with committing non-consensual sexual acts on a minor who he had a duty of care for.

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The nine-year-old girl is his step-granddaughter and the accused faces over seven years in prison if found guilty.

Asked what he would be pleading, the accused replied that he was not guilty of the charge. “Definitely not guilty,” repeated his lawyer.

Lawyers Michael Sciriha and Matthew Xuereb, appearing as defence counsel, requested a ban on the publication of the name of the accused and that of his alleged victim. The request was upheld.

Sciriha requested bail. He asked for the accused’s wife to testify solely for the purpose of bail. The court acceded to the request.

The woman took the stand and confirmed that she was the victim’s grandmother. “Had the child ever shown fear of being with the accused in past two years?” asked the lawyer. “No, never,” replied the woman.

The prosecution asked her how many times she had gone with the child to visit a child psychologist. Once, she said, adding that the psychologist had told her that the child had mentioned no names but that “something might have happened.”

Inspector Busuttil objected to bail, pointing out that the victim hadn’t been heard yet and there was a risk of tampering with evidence.

“I have had opportunity to hear the child after she spoke to Appoġġ and a child psychologist. She’s given her version three times and was always consistent,” Busuttil said.

He pointed out that the person accused is related to the victim and “had practically raised the child.”

“I am prepared to bring all my witnesses in the first sitting. This isn’t a punishment for an undecided case,” the inspector said.

Sciriha rebutted that this was a form of punishment. “The court must be careful as there are many allegations which have no basis. What basis do you have after two years of the child not being scared of him? The defence has a good knowledge of the case. If need be, impose restrictions and safeguards but if you have a person continuously protesting innocence… our courts should be a shield for justice,” argued the lawyer.

The court however denied bail at this stage, due to the risk of the accused tampering with evidence or approaching witnesses.

 

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