Fra Diegu home abuse case - child's 'letter of apology' was faked

The compilation of evidence against a care worker charged with slightly injuring two children at Dar Fra Diegu in Hamrun in September last year, continued before magistrate Josette Demicoli today.

A quick-thinking magistrate has established that a declaration, exhibited by the defence in the case against a care worker charged with slightly injuring two children at Dar Fra Diegu in Hamrun last year, was in fact ,a forgery.

The compilation of evidence against a care worker charged with slightly injuring two children at Dar Fra Diegu in Hamrun on 18 September 2015 continued with two siblings and another girl testifying via video conference today,

The boy, now 11 years old, said he had been depressed on first moving to the home as he missed his mother. When they started HSS, taking him out more often he felt better. Fights would sometimes occur between the children at the home, he said.

“On the 18th September, [girl] and I started making a lot of noise and the carer came to tell us to keep quiet, so we started shouting even more.” The carer used a vulgar insult about his mother, said the boy. “I didn’t like it and started throwing stuff at her.” One soft toy hit the accused in the face.

The carer then called the boy's sister to come over from another area of the home to quiet him down, but, the witness said, he started to hit his sister too. The children ran out of the flat. The accused had told him that to get inside he would have to walk over her, the boy testified. He pushed her out of the way and went in.

The boy’s mother also testified today, alleging that children staying at the home were underfed and deprived of essential items.

There had been a number of incidents where her children had been beaten by the carers, the woman said. “Every time I went to speak to the management I was simply told that they deserved it because they had been misbehaving.”

The mother argued that this was traumatic for her children, who were now back living with her. Asked how she was coping, the woman explained that she is working fewer hours and taking good care of them. “Social workers come to visit every so often but everything is fine.”

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Johan Borg, the mother said her son had no psychological issues and that the second care worker involved in the incident, who is not accused of any offence, had corroborated the boy’s account. “My son was terrified because he was getting beaten up inside the home. He was crying and crying.”

Incident “was a bit rough”

This had not been the first time that the carer in question had beaten him, said the boy. At least three carers, including the accused had hit him on other occasions. He also claimed to have also been abused and bitten by the other children.

On this occasion, it appears that when the children were told to stop making noise, they became aggressive and started hitting the carers and throwing their toys at them. At one point the boy charged at the accused, who pushed him away and into a TV unit. The carer then allegedly twisted the girl’s arm to subdue her. The children were later taken to a health centre where they were found to have suffered slight injuries. The boy had traces of blood in his liver.

The boy’s 14-year old sister also testified. Her timid voice, barely audible at times, told how the accused had called her up and asked her to come to the flat and stop her brother beating up children and staff. “When I went there he beat me up too. Then the other carer came along. [The accused] used the boy's mother's name in vain. She told him to go beat his mother up, not her.” Then he ran away and [the other carer] and I went to look for him.” When they returned, he threw a soft toy at the [accused] carer's face and the carer pushed him, the girl recalled. “It was a bit rough.”

She explained that there had been a knife on top of the cupboard and when he collided with it, the knife had fallen to the floor, leading the adult to suspect him of carrying a knife.”

The other child tried to stop the carer but the woman twisted the girl’s arm.

Lawyer Edward Gatt pointed to the girl's timidity, pointing out that the girl would have to return to the same home where the accused worked, when the court sitting was over. The girl, however, told the court that nobody had told her what to say.

Declaration of guilt” shown to be fake

The defence suggested that the boy had signed a declaration admitting to having lied about the incident, but the boy denied doing this. Neither had he apologised verbally.

Gatt told the court that he had been shown a form of writing. “I think it is very unfair that we play these games with children,” remarked the lawyer. He asked for this written declaration to be produced in court so the boy could be confronted with it.

Shown the letter, the boy immediately denied that the writing was his . “I didn’t write this. One, I didn’t have these papers. Two I write neatly...this looks like it was written by a chicken,” the boy remarked.

Borg asked the court to ask the boy to write something, so he could compare the handwriting, but Gatt pointed out that he wasn’t a handwriting expert. Instead,  magistrate Josette Demicoli asked the boy to spell some of the words in the declaration. The boy spelled them correctly.

“You passed the test. Well done,” said the magistrate to the boy. “In fact, these are misspelled on this declaration.” 

The case continues on June 9th.
Inspector Robert Vella is prosecuting.