Malta Philharmonic Orchestra official admits to sexual harassment of young musician

The official was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for four years • A five-year restraining order was imposed in favour of the victim

A senior official pleaded guilty to sexually harassing a young female orchestra musician over a three-year period (File photo)
A senior official pleaded guilty to sexually harassing a young female orchestra musician over a three-year period (File photo)

A senior official at the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra has been placed under a restraining order, as well as a suspended sentence, after admitting to having sexually harassed a young female orchestra musician over a span of more than three years.

The 31-year-old Gozitan man, whose name cannot be published by court order, was accused of harassing the young woman, subjecting her to an unsolicited act of physical intimacy, subjecting her to unwanted sexual behaviour and misuse of telecommunications equipment.

He is understood to have sent the woman sexually-suggestive messages and would repeatedly touch her inappropriately, ignoring her requests that he stop. The abuse lasted from May 2019 till last month. The victim, a classically trained musician, had resigned from the Orchestra to avoid further contact with the man.

Inspector Gabriel Micallef, prosecuting together with inspector Kevin Pulis strongly opposed the defence’s attempts to avoid the case being publicised. When the sitting began, defence lawyer Giannella De Marco asked that members of the public be ordered out of the courtroom, but Micallef objected, arguing that he didn’t want the case happening behind closed doors, “as if we have something to hide.”

After briefly sending journalists and members of the public out of the courtroom, presiding Magistrate Charmaine Galea rejected the request, saying the court “could, at most, issue a ban on the reporting of the name of the accused as well as that of the victim.”

De Marco told the court that the accused “suffered a lot from anxiety” which had contributed to the premature end of his musical career.

Before allowing the accused to plead, the court warned him that he could face up to six months in prison as well as a fine between €5000 and €10,000, but also explained that there were lesser punishments which were also at the court’s disposal.

The defence told the court that the last incident had occurred in July, after which he had never approached or communicated with the victim.

“Because she blocked him on social media” interjected parte civile lawyer Roberto Spiteri.

At this stage the court imposed a ban on the publication of the name of the parties in the case, but this met with stiff resistance from the prosecution and parte civile, who opposed the ban, saying that there was no way of arriving at the identity of the victim - who is the person such bans are intended to protect - from that of the accused.

De Marco insisted that one could arrive at the identity of the victim from the identity of the accused, as she worked with him. Lawyer Veronique Dalli, also representing the accused, added that there weren’t many people who had been working with him. Inspector Micallef informed the court that the victim had resigned and no longer worked with the orchestra.

The court imposed the ban anyway, although the grounds for doing so were unclear (“because of the crime in question”).

After this, the accused was asked what he was pleading, to which he replied that he was admitting the charges.

Inspector Pulis exhibited the report filed by the victim, together with an audiovisual record of the statement released by the accused.

The court dictated a note to the effect that the prosecution, parte civile and defence had agreed that a custodial sentence was not required.

After he confirmed his guilty plea, the court declared the man guilty and sentenced him to one year in prison, suspended for four years. A five-year restraining order in favour of the victim was also imposed.

Despite the relatively light sentence, De Marco asked the court for the suspension of the judgement - indicating an intention to file an appeal against the punishment.

A representative of the victim explained that the man would persistently attempt to invade the woman’s personal space and would also frequently touch her inappropriately, despite her resistance and vocal objections, forcing her to resign from the MPO, “giving up her dream.”                                            

Inspectors Gabriel Micallef and Kevin Pulis prosecuted.

Lawyers Giannella De Marco and Veronique Dalli were defence counsel.

Lawyers Ilenia Agius, Roberto Spiteri and Joseph Gatt represented the victim in the proceedings.