Man charged with molesting partner's teenage daughters, remanded in custody

A court has denied bail to a man arraigned on charges of having sexually abused his partner’s teenage daughters

File Photo
File Photo

A court has denied bail to a man arraigned on charges of having sexually abused his partner’s teenage daughters.

Vice Squad Inspector Joseph Busuttil charged the 40-year-old Syrian man with corrupting the two girls, aged 12 and 15, participating in sexual activities with underage persons and repeatedly committing sexual offences on vulnerable persons. The inspector requested a protection order be issued in favour of the alleged victims.

From the witness stand, Inspector Busuttil explained how yesterday, the police had received an urgent report of child sex abuse from the social welfare agency Appogg. The report stated that the abuse involved the children’s mother’s second husband. One 15-year-old girl, the second of four children under the man’s care, told police, in the presence of social workers, that the man had repeatedly touched her inappropriately.

The accused was called in for questioning and later arrested.

In court this afternoon, the man pleaded not guilty to the charges. A request for a ban on the publication of the name of the accused was upheld due to the nature of the case and the involvement of his step-children.

His lawyers, Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri, requested bail, Debono once again raising the issue that no witnesses had been summoned to testify during the arraignment. Logic demanded that practices which had developed over the years be occasionally revisited he said, joking that it was a “historic event” that he and the inspector agreed on something.

The lawyer pointed out that in a recent case, he had asked the court to order the prosecution to bring all the witnesses immediately, which request had subsequently been denied. That case was eventually assigned by lot to the same magistrate who had presided over the arraignment, Debono said, arguing that this meant that his client had been denied bail for nothing.

Cases, where the alleged victims are to testify by video conferencing were an even clearer case for this to happen, he argued.

Inspector Busuttil highlighted practical issues with the lawyer’s suggestion, amongst them the fact that the witnesses were minors, who have to be psychologically prepared for what to expect in court by mental health professionals before they testify. 

The inspector went on to say that he was of the opinion that minors should not be made to testify at all in such cases, as they would have already given a detailed statement to the police. Doing so would only force them to relive the trauma unnecessarily, he said.

Debono said that if needed, he was prepared to stay in court “till the next morning” hearing witnesses, adding that it was not the first time that he and his colleagues had been in court till late at night doing precisely that.

“Yes, I am defending the accused, but I understand that there is a victim…I always respect the victim. It is obvious.” Debono said, insisting he was only doing his job.

Making an oblique reference to the recently concluded defamation case filed in the USA by Johnny Depp against his former partner Amber Heard, Debono said, “we need to be careful, and we recently had a high profile case where the alleged victim made allegations which turned out to be false, so we really do need to cross-examine them.”

With regards to bail, the accused was prepared to submit to any conditions imposed by the court, Debono concluded. “The crime is what it is; we will summon the victims to testify at the first opportunity given to us by the court, which normally doesn’t take long.”

In view of the serious nature of the charges and the fact that the accused and the alleged victims are underage members of the same family, the court denied bail.