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Magistrate slams police mishandling of Gozo indecent assault case

A magistrate has slammed police mishandling of a case of attempted violent indecent assault in Gozo, acquitting the accused of all charges

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
19 May 2017, 1:55pm
The court acquitted the accused and ordered that a copy of the sentence be given to the Commissioner of Police
The court acquitted the accused and ordered that a copy of the sentence be given to the Commissioner of Police
A magistrate has slammed police mishandling of a case of attempted violent indecent assault in Gozo, warning that he would no longer tolerate it.

The case dates back to March at the Xewkija Wasteserv facility, when a 30-year-old man from Victoria was alleged to have grabbed a woman, who had been disposing of an old mattress, “by the shoulders and pressed himself against her.”

He was arraigned in March by inspector Edel Mary Camilleri and charged with attempted violent indecent assault and harassment.

The man had consistently denied doing so, the court noted, both hours after the incident as well as before the court. CCTV footage exhibited in court shed no light on what happened, the court noted.

“The prosecuting official issued charges against the accused without even bothering to send for him and take a statement. Neither had she bothered to speak to the complainant. Neither had she bothered to watch the CCTV footage or speak to other persons who might have shed light on the incident.”

Presiding magistrate Joe MIfsud condemned in the strongest of terms, what he called “this type of fake investigation.”

“It is pointless for the prosecuting official to later go running with a note of appeal to try and find some shelter in the Attorney General's office, like the pigeons that seek shelter under the columns of a church or the court.”

The court underlined that it was a well established principle that the court was to evaluate the body of evidence as a whole and not piecemeal.

On the charge of attempted violent indecent assault, the court made reference to several landmark judgments and legal scholars on the topic of sexual offences. It noted that the complainant had testified to having waited four hours to go to the police after allegedly being assaulted and had not mentioned the incident to the Wasteserv facility's management. The prosecution's evidence “fell well short of the level required in the criminal law sphere.”

On the second charge, that of harassment, the court pointed to judgments by the Court of Appeal it had made on this topic, emphasising that the action had to have occurred on more than one occasion. As this was a solitary incident, harassment could not subsist.

The court observed that it had explained this to inspector Camilleri in the past, saying that “she continues to persist down this wrong path...This court feels this to be an abuse of power that it will no longer permit.”

It acquitted the accused and ordered that a copy of the sentence be given to the Commissioner of Police.

Lawyer Kevin Mompalao was defence counsel.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...