Man guilty of sexual assault to be re-sentenced following court's mistake

The Court of Criminal appeal observed that the first court had quoted the wrong article of the law in sentencing the man

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

The Court of Criminal Appeal has ordered the re-sentencing of a Syrian man found guilty of groping a young Maltese girl.

23-year-old Najm Fahd had been sentenced to four and a half years in prison after he was found guilty of participating in sexual activities with the 16-year-old girl, holding her against her will, attacking her and being drunk in a public place. He had allegedly bitten her and put his hand up her skirt before the girl put up a fight and he fled, the court was told.

The assault was alleged to have taken place near Pembroke at 2am, over the 2015 Christmas period.

A man had followed the girl and assaulted her after mentioning that he wanted to go to Hamrun as he was lost. After being told of the attack, the girl’s mother had gone to search the area herself and had found a man matching the description, talking to another young girl who fled at the first opportunity.

The man had told the mother that he was cold and wanted to go to Hamrun, and so the mother had concluded that it was the same man who had assaulted her daughter. She had then called the police but the man escaped.

The victim did not know her attacker but had recognised him after seeing him on the news when he was arraigned for a similar offence. When police searched his residence they had found a shirt and set of keys matching the description given by the victim.

In his appeal application, the argued that “the conclusion of guilt could not be legally or reasonably reached because the evidence presented by the prosecution is scarce, conflicting and does not reach the grade required by law”.

The Court of Criminal Appeal, presided by madam justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, observed that the first court had quoted an article of the Criminal Code with which he had not been charged - 339(c) instead of 339(cc) - in finding the man guilty, rendering the judgement null.

The court ordered that Fahd be placed in the position he was before the sentence was handed down, in order for the sentence to be reissued under the correct article of the law.

Inspectors Joseph Busuttil and Matthew Spagnol prosecuted.

Lawyer Jason Grima appeared for Fahd.