[WATCH] Fr Charles Fenech in court over sex abuse allegations

All witnesses heard behind closed doors

Fr Charles Fenech emerging from the law courts in Valletta (Photo by Ray Attard)
Fr Charles Fenech emerging from the law courts in Valletta (Photo by Ray Attard)
Fr Charles Fenech walking out of court (Video by Ray Attard)

Fr. Charles Fenech, 54, from Rabat, appeared in the dock before Magistrate Tonio Micallef Trigona this morning, accused of sexually abusing a woman in her 40s.

Fenech’s lawyer, Michael Scriha, requested the case be heard behind closed doors, “as this was the practice in such cases”, however the magistrate appeared unimpressed by this argument, saying that he, "does not care what happened in similar cases, there is no established practice”.

Inspector Louise Calleja, leading the prosecution, said the they would like the victim to testify behind closed doors and the court agreed to this.

Contrary to what the press was led to believe, all of today's witnesses: the alleged victim, a psychiatrist, two other women corroborating the woman's testimony and a man testified behind closed doors.

/The Dominican priest had missed his previous three sittings over the abuse charges, citing poor health.

Fenech is facing charges of violent sexual abuse against a mentally unstable patient, holding the woman against her will and committing indecent acts in public.

Reliable sources had informed MaltaToday that some months ago, one of the alleged victims of sexual abuse by Fenech was offered a “hefty sum” by Archbishop emeritus Cremona to remain silent - an allegation strongly rebutted by the Curia.

The case was brought before the Church’s Response Team when Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Mercieca was at the helm of the Maltese archdiocese, with internal investigations continuing when Cremona, who like Fenech is a Dominican friar, was appointed Archbishop in 2007.

One of Fenech’s alleged victims who spoke to MaltaToday had said that though the Church has known about the allegations for years, Fenech had never been removed from his position as director of the Kerygma Movement. To the contrary, she said, the Dominican provincial had been awarded the Gieħ ir-Repubblika medal and admitted to the National Order of Merit.

Fenech was removed from his post in Kerygma and prohibited from administering the sacraments after the story broke, last October.

The courts had previously heard one victim testify that Fenech “targeted vulnerable women” and that she knew of at least 15 other women who claim to have fallen for Fenech’s advances.  

Fr. Fenech, who has been a Dominican priest for the last 28 years, has spent most of his priesthood surrounded by young people who flock to the numerous spiritual, cultural, educational and sports events organised by the Kerygma Movement which he founded in 1984.

The women had reported the case to the Curia 10 years ago and were asked to appear in front of a Response Team led by Fr Mario Grech, who later became Bishop of Gozo. During these interviews, despite a clear attempt by the Curia Response Team to discredit the allegations, the women had provided the names of up to 15 girls who claimed to have been sexually abused by Fenech.

The case will continue on the 23rd February.

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