Pensioner cleared of sexual harassment over uninvited kiss at Floriana Labour party club

The pensioner tried to kiss a Spanish tourist's hand, but the court said that an isolated incident does not constitute harassment

A court has acquitted a pensioner from Rabat of sexually harassing a Spanish tourist who went to the police after he had tried to kiss her hand at the Floriana Labour Party club last October.

The court had heard how 75-year-old Roger Galea had made the gesture after he blocked the girl’s path as she left the club’s restroom area, with footage of the incident also being exhibited in court.

But Galea was found not guilty of the charges, with the court pointing out that as it was an isolated incident, the course of conduct, which is a necessary element to the crime of harassment, was not present.

Magistrate Elaine Mercieca had seen CCTV footage of the incident and noted that this confirmed the girl’s testimony that the man’s behaviour had not been welcome. 

The footage showed the girl leaving the club’s restroom area in an agitated and emotional state.

In her judgement, the magistrate made reference to the girl’s testimony, during which she told the court that she did not even want to look at the accused and made the observation that the man’s actions had left an impact on the tourist who had been on holiday in Malta. His actions did indeed have sexual connotations and was “undoubtedly one of intimidation, degrading and offensive to the victim,” the magistrate said.

However, whilst the incident took place on one occasion, Galea had been charged with harassment, an offence which required the unwelcome actions to have been repeated over a period of time.

This so-called “course of conduct” was “undoubtedly absent” in this case, the court said. 

“It is true that Roger Galea had attempted to speak to her by waving and saying ‘hello’ before the victim went to the bathroom, however, in the opinion of this court, this behaviour, a simple salutation, is not offensive, humiliating, degrading or intimidatory behaviour under article 251A(1)(e).” 

In addition to this, the short period of time between the greeting and the abusive behaviour meant that they could not be taken as distinct incidents, said the court, ruling that the two interactions were to be considered as a single incident.

“This behaviour on the part of the accused is punishable under another article of the Criminal Code, however it is not such that it satisfies the charge proffered by the prosecution in these proceedings,” said the magistrate.

Galea was acquitted of the charges against him.

Lawyer Daniel Attard was defence counsel. Inspector Gabriel Micallef prosecuted.