Man accused of 2018 rape of five-year-old niece, denied bail

A 56-year-old man from San Gwann has been remanded in custody after being accused of sexually abusing his niece in 2018 when she was just five years old

File Photo
File Photo

A 56-year-old partially blind man from San Gwann has been remanded in custody after being accused of sexually abusing his niece in 2018 when she was just five years old.

Inspector Kylie Borg, together with prosecutors Nathanial Falzon and Yvette Borg Cardona charged the man, who cannot be due to a court order in this regard, with aggravated rape, corrupting the minor and violent indecent assault.

The accused, who had to be guided into Magistrate Josette Demicoli’s courtroom by family members and who uses a white cane to find his way around, is denying the charges.

Inspector Borg explained to the court that the police had received a referral from Appogg after a 12-year-old girl told social workers that she had been sexually abused and raped at her uncle’s house when she was five years old.

In the presence of social workers, the girl told the police that she had informed her parents about the alleged abuse two years ago. The inspector said she had issued an arrest warrant after speaking with the girl herself.

The accused, who said he worked as a messenger at a government department, pleaded not guilty. Lawyer, David Saliba, appearing as defence counsel together with lawyer Arthur Azzopardi and Jacob Magri, requested bail.

The prosecution objected to bail, arguing that the offences were serious and that there was a risk of evidence being tampered with if the accused were to be released.

Saliba argued that his client was presumed innocent and invited the court to “look at the accused and consider whether there was even a remote possibility of him tampering with evidence.” The man’s phone and the computer had already been seized and the case centred around the evidence that would be given by the minor.

The lawyer told the court that it was the victim who would visit the accused and not vice versa and added that his client had intellectual disabilities. “Taking into account his disabilities and other factors, what is the possibility of the accused approaching the witness? Zero.”

Prosecuting lawyer Nathaniel Falzon, in his objections to bail, pointed out that electronic means were not the only ones he could use to contact the witness. They were also family, he said. “We aren’t talking about a remote case that happened once; they know each other very well.”

“We are talking about a victim at a tender age, who doesn’t have the usual support of a normal family,” Falzon submitted, adding that the law didn’t distinguish between accused persons on the basis of their IQ.

In his rejoinder, defence lawyer Jacob Magri added that the accused lived in a different town to the alleged victim. “He suffers from serious illnesses. He needs assistance to walk; he isn’t going to go somewhere on his own.”

The lawyer also pointed out that the allegation had been made in July last year. “Had he wanted to tamper with evidence, he had all the time in the world to do so,” argued the lawyer.

Saliba asked the court to bear the man’s ill health in mind if bail was to be denied. It was important that he be assessed by a doctor and treatment be made available to him whilst he is being detained. Inspector Borg informed the defence that the police had already taken care of his medication.

After hearing the submissions, the court said it felt it must deny the request for bail at this stage, in view of the risk of the accused tampering with evidence and the fact that the victim was yet to testify.

The court instructed the prosecution to summon the minor to testify at the next sitting.

Both prosecution and defence asked the court to ban the publication of the names of the accused or the victim. The court upheld this request, noting that the measure was justified in order to safeguard the interests of the minor.