No bail for man charged with rape of female friend

The offence had taken place at the accused’s residence in Sliema, when the woman had gone to bid him farewell

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A court has been told how a man allegedly raped a Maltese woman with whom he had a "long term physical relationship of sorts", when she had called at his apartment in order to bid him a safe trip before he left to visit his dying mother in Sicily.

The accused, a 44-year-old Sicilian deliveryman, was arraigned before magistrate Rachel Montebello earlier today.

Police inspectors John Spiteri and Colin Sheldon, prosecuting together with lawyer Angele Vella from the Office of the Attorney General charged the man with rape and holding the alleged victim against her will.

The court was told the offence had taken place during the evening of 14 January at the accused’s residence in Sliema, when the woman had gone to bid him farewell as he was about to travel to Sicily to see his dying mother.

The man’s lawyer, Roberto Montalto, entered a not guilty plea and requested bail. He told the court the incident was an isolated one which had occurred “only once.” Although the alleged victim had not yet testified, there was other evidence besides the victim’s testimony, including the accused’s mobile phone, submitted the lawyer.

The accused was an Italian citizen who had been living in Malta for the past five years. Although he had no family ties to Malta, his intention was to continue to live here, said Montalto, adding the accused’s employers held him in high regard and had engaged the lawyer on his behalf.

His strongest ties were with Sicily, “our sister island, not Nigeria," added the lawyer. He argued that whilst he understood objections to bail on the grounds that the victim hadn’t testified yet, in this case there were other factors at play.

There had been a long-term physical relationship of sorts, said Montalto. After months, if not years, this incident had occurred out of the blue “like lightning on a sunny day”, he said, also submitting it had been the victim who had appeared on the accused’s doorstep uninvited.

“It cannot be that in every case like this, the accused must bow his head and submit to up to 15 days of preventive arrest,” said the lawyer, describing the prosecution’s case as “weak.”

A protection order imposed by the magistrate was another legal obstacle which would serve as a deterrent to the accused approaching the victim whilst on bail, Montalto added.

The prosecution objected to bail, citing the early stage of the proceedings and the fact that the victim hadn’t yet testified, as well as the gravity of the crime alleged. The fact that the accused lived very close to the police station had not stopped the incident from taking place, argued Vella.

The accused was not Maltese, even though he had lived on the islands for a long time, submitted the prosecutor. “We have information that the accused cannot be trusted to stay in Malta and he had no residence permit here,” concluded the prosecutor.

Inspector Spiteri told the court the prosecution was objecting mostly due to fear of him attempting to suborn their witnesses or escape. He pointed out the accused had plans in place to visit his sick mother in Sicily before the incident.

When the accused had been asked by the police how he was going to travel, as he had not had his third booster shot of the Covid vaccine, he had replied that he had a way of sidestepping the travel ban through a friend of his who works with the fisheries department. This showed he was not trustworthy, submitted the Inspector.

Montalto counter-argued that the man had been desperate to visit his dying mother.

Having heard submissions on bail, the court refused the request and decreed that the man was to be remanded in custody, soliciting the prosecution to summon its witnesses as soon as possible.

Earlier in the sitting the court also upheld a prosecution request for the man’s name be withheld from publication to avoid secondary victimisation.