Man with intellectual disability who sexually abused nieces will be retried

Judge rules that a man who was acquitted of having sexually abused four nieces because of mental incapacity will have to be retried

The court had exempted him from criminal responsibility, treating him as if he was a minor
The court had exempted him from criminal responsibility, treating him as if he was a minor

A man, who 10 years ago admitted to having sexually abused four nieces but was acquitted on the grounds of mental incapacity, will have to be retried, a court has ruled.

The man, who cannot be named due to a court order, had pleaded guilty to having committed violent indecent assault and participation in sexual activities with the girls, all of whom were under 12 at the time. Besides pleading guilty in court, he had also admitted his guilt to the police during interrogation.

However, after a board of psychiatric experts informed the court that the man was affected by mental development issues and had a mental age of an 11-year-old, the court had exempted him from criminal responsibility, treating him as if he was a minor.

The Attorney General had subsequently filed an appeal.

In a decision handed down by the court of Criminal Appeal, presided by Madam Justice Edwina Grima, it was held that despite the medical diagnosis, the man should not have benefited from the legal exemption from criminal responsibility afforded to minors, as he could never be treated as a minor in the eyes of the law.

The judge said the court of first Instance had been mistaken when it ruled that the man was not criminally responsible for his actions. Although this may have been the medical diagnosis, the law treated such issues differently. 

The law was clear, said the judge, in that the exemption only applied to children and not adults, despite any diminished mental capacity.

The court ordered a pre-sentencing report be carried out, after the man’s defence raised doubts about his mental stability. His statement was also expunged from the proceedings, in view of the fact that it was taken before he had been allowed to consult with his lawyer.

Madam Justice Grima noted that the accused had denied any involvement when speaking to probation officers and had said that he had confessed to the police because he was afraid and because his lawyer had advised him to.

However, the panel of experts had also confirmed that the girls had been sexually abused.

In view of the conclusion that the man suffered from an intellectual disability, the judge annulled his sentence and sent the acts of the case back to the court of magistrates to be heard again from the beginning.