Father without access to his daughter’s testimony had fundamental rights breached

A father complained that the court’s decision to seal the children’s lawyer report breached his fundamental right to a fair hearing 

A father complained that the court’s decision to seal the children’s lawyer report breached his fundamental right to a fair hearing. 

The children’s lawyer report, a record that would otherwise be publicly accessible, was sealed before the father could respond to the testimony provided by his daughter. 

The man separated from his wife in 2017 and was granted access rights to his daughter.

At the time, he claimed that he often saw bruises on his daughter that might have been made by the mother.

The man said that he had never been granted an audience by the children’s lawyer, Stephanie Galea, and had no idea what the report containing his daughter’s testimony said, even after his access rights to his daughter had been limited by the court.

The court only heard the daughter but did not allow the father to respond. He claimed that he was not provided an audience and was persuaded that the report had damning evidence against him.

The mother claimed that she couldn’t be held responsible for any oversights or deficiencies on the part of the court since it is the state that guarantees the protection of an individual’s human rights.

The father is wheelchair-bound and has mobility problems, so he couldn’t exercise his visitation rights at Appogg in Pietà after his rights were restricted by the first court. 

The father claimed that he often observed scabs on his daughter, once seeing a gash on her head that the daughter had said was caused when her mum had hurled a laptop at her.

The father filed various complaints with the court, claiming that police had approached him in summer of 2017 and had informed him of allegations against him that he was being abusive, even sexually, to his daughter. 

The father said that he had never had access to his daughter during the summer of 2017 and that when the mother brought the daughter to his house, she would ring the bell but leave before giving him enough time to reach the door. 

He claimed that a psychologist’s report says that the daughter was being influenced by the mother.

The constitutional court declared that the civil court effectively contributed to a breach of fundamental human rights when the children’s lawyer report was sealed, denying the man the right to respond and the right to a fair hearing. It ordered the access rights to return to normal as they were before the sentence of the first court.

Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, Judge Giannino Caruana Demajo and Judge Anthony Ellul were presiding. 

Christopher Chircop was defence lawyer.