Man charged with sexually abusing partner's nieces ten years ago, court refuses bail

A delivery driver from Rabat has been remanded in custody after he was charged with sexually abusing his partner’s underage nieces 10 years ago

File Photo
File Photo

A delivery driver from Rabat has been remanded in custody after he was charged with sexually abusing his partner’s underage nieces 10 years ago.

Police Inspectors Andy Rotin and Dorianne Tabone, together with AG Prosecutor Darlene Grima, charged the 40-year-old man with sexually abusing the two underage girls in the period spanning the years 2004 to 2012.

The man, whose name is subject to a ban on publication, was also accused of participating in sexual acts with the vulnerable underage girls, forcing them to be present during episodes of sexual abuse and forcing underage persons to participate in sexual behaviour through technological means.

The charges are aggravated by the accused’s family ties to the victims.

Inspector Rotin told magistrate Rachel Montebello that in January 2021, the Hamrun police station had received a report from the minor children and their parents, claiming that the children had been abused by their aunt’s partner between 2004 and 2012, at their grandmother’s house.

A magisterial inquiry had been set up and had concluded that the man should be charged.

Asked by lawyer Jason Grima, defence counsel to the accused, the inspector confirmed that the police had not questioned the accused.

A not guilty plea was entered, and bail was requested.

Prosecuting lawyer Darlene Grima from the attorney general's office objected to the man’s release, arguing that the victims had never testified, not even during the inquiry. “Their version of events is not preserved. It is true that the report had been made nearly a year ago, but he knew the children had spoken out as their father had spoken to him about the claims. He was not aware of the police investigation,” she said.

Lawyer Jason Grima told the court that his client was aware of the allegations, “so much so that he had not approached them, but it had been their father who had approached him and told him everything, from A-Z.”

The accused had in fact filed a police report about the father, in which he claimed to have been threatened. The father was subsequently charged and had been ordered by the court not to approach the accused.

The charges date back ten years, pointed out the lawyer. “Apart from this, the inquiry started a year ago, so he had all the time in the world to suborn the alleged victims had he wanted to, and this did not happen.”

The lawyer said he was perplexed by the prosecution’s claim that the children had given their versions of events to a court expert but not under oath, saying that this was not the usual procedure.

“The alleged victims are grown-ups now,” he said. “Where is the risk? When he was approached, my client felt the need to file a police report as he felt threatened. His criminal record was clean. Everything shows that he is trustworthy,” Grima argued, adding that a lot of time had passed since the alleged incidents.

“He cooperated with the police. Answered every question and categorically denied that which is being alleged,” said the lawyer, also claiming that it was impossible for the accused to have committed the alleged crimes at the grandmother’s home as the house was “very small.”

The man was also entrusted with the care of his bedridden mother, submitted the defence.

Grima informed the court that the accused’s sister was prepared to step in as a third-party guarantor and that the accused could also provide a financial guarantee.

The sister was called to the stand, from where she promised to ensure that he didn’t approach anyone involved in the case, confirming that she was “100%” aware that she would be held responsible if he did.

But the prosecution objected to the woman acting as a guarantor, pointing out that she had already had told the court that she could not take care of her mother herself as she suffered from fibromyalgia and used crutches. “So, how can you give this guarantee if your brother resides with his mother?”

The AG prosecutor submitted that she could not see how the accused’s sister could keep a constant watch over her brother if she didn’t live with him.

But despite the defence arguing that details of how the guarantor would ensure compliance was up to her, the court opted to deny bail, ruling that there was a real fear that the accused would attempt to tamper with the evidence.

The court imposed a ban on the publication of the names of the accused and the victims.