‘Strange’ that dementia patient had not testified in her rape case, court says, as accused granted bail

The accused had been charged with sexual abuse of a vulnerable female dementia patient, who was unable to defend herself due to medical infirmity

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A male former retirement home employee, who is accused of the rape of a 69 year-old resident, has been granted bail by the Criminal Court.

Goran Pantelic, a 53-year-old from Serbia, had been charged last May with amongst other things, sexual abuse of a vulnerable female dementia patient who was unable to defend herself due to medical infirmity.  

Pantelic’s lawyers, Roberto Spiteri and Matthew Xuereb, had applied for bail, arguing that he had a clean criminal record and that there was no risk of the accused absconding, having strong ties to the island. A third party guarantor was prepared to provide security for his compliance, they told the court.

The Attorney General had opposed the bail request on the grounds that there was a strong fear that the accused, a foreign national, could flee the islands, given the serious charges he is facing.

Madame Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera noted that despite the fact that many witnesses had been heard, the alleged victim had not testified.

The judge said it was “strange” that the Attorney General had not asked the court to summon the dementia patient and that this fact was not the fault of the accused, but was a “conscious choice” made by the prosecution and the Attorney General.

The court had heard the accused’s wife testify that she had been married to the accused for 10 years and had been living in Malta for a long time. She exhibited a lease contract which showed that they had a fixed address. The wife, who works as a hotel housekeeper, informed the court that she was aware of the charges against her husband and offered to act as a third party guarantor.

The judge observed that, while it was true that the charges faced by the accused were very serious, the period of his detention whilst presumed innocent was a long one. “Neither does the court think it prudent to speculate about punishment in case guilt is found. This is because it doesn’t feel that it should, even minimally, prejudice the position of the accused.” Potential punishment alone did not constitute a sufficient ground for the continuing detention, in view of the presumption of innocence, said the court.

Quoting from several judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the judge also noted that the fear of absconding due to the gravity of the charges was also not sufficient ground to deny bail.

“This court cannot differentiate between Maltese applicants and foreign ones, because the principles of justice are the same for every race and belief.”

Releasing the accused from arrest, the judge ordered Pantelic to observe a curfew and deposit his passport and ID card in court. He was also ordered not to speak to any of the prosecution’s witnesses, in particular the alleged victim and not to work at the nursing home where the alleged abuse took place. The court also decreed that the man’s residential lease had to be registered with the Housing Authority within 10 days and that he sign a bail book twice a day.

Pantelic was ordered to secure his release from arrest with a €5,000 deposit and a personal guarantee of €10,000. The court also instructed the police to check that the accused was obeying its orders by visiting his home at irregular intervals, unannounced.