Violent indecent assault conviction overturned by Court of Criminal Appeal

Judge declares conviction ‘built around two small bruises’ unsafe and unsatisfactory

The court said it didn't feel that the conclusion reached by the first court was safe and satisfactory and cleared the man, declaring him not guilty of the charges
The court said it didn't feel that the conclusion reached by the first court was safe and satisfactory and cleared the man, declaring him not guilty of the charges

A man convicted of violent indecent assault has been cleared on appeal, after a judge noted that the first judgment had ignored vital facts in the man’s defence.

The man had been convicted of violent indecent assault and of slightly injuring a woman. He was handed a nine-month prison sentence, which was suspended for three years, in December 2015.

The incident was alleged to have occurred on 26 March 2012, when the woman, who had left the house to go shopping with her four-year-old son, walked past the man’s garage.

As they walked past, the boy had wanted to see the boat which the man, who the woman ha known since their childhood, had in his house’s front porch. The boy approached the man, who in turn lifted him up onto the boat.

At a point, the boy noticed that the man also had a caged barn owl in his garage which he also wanted to see. The man again obliged.

Whilst carrying the boy down to the garage, the man’s son arrived with one of his friends.

According to the woman, it was at this point, as they were walking down to the garage, that the man, who was carrying her son with one hand, pushed her against the wall and groped her under her clothes with his other hand.

The woman claimed that the man’s assault had caused bruising to her breasts. She also claimed to have been scared of the man, who she accused of threatening her if she ever told anyone about what had happened.

Later, whilst testifying in court, the woman had added that the man had told her that he wanted to have sex with her, but none of the police witnesses testified to having been told this by the woman when she had originally filed her report, three days after the incident.

The man’s son and his friend had both testified that the woman had appeared normal on the day and had stopped to chat about how much she wanted to find a man who could loved her and her children. They said that she had then walked to go shopping.

Three days later, the man was summoned to the San Gwann police station for questioning about the alleged molestation and slight injury. He denied the allegation both in the statement which he released at that moment as well as when testifying in court.

The woman had filed her report with the police in the company of her mother, who had encouraged her to do so on the basis of what she had been told by her daughter.

The court carried out an in-depth assessment of the sentence to establish whether the first court had been reasonable in its conclusions.

The first court had been convinced by the alleged victim’s testimony and the bruising which she found on her breasts. “It gave no importance to the other evidence brought forward by the defence in its submissions as reported,” noted Madam justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera.

The judge gave more weight to the fact that the woman had been examined by a doctor who found fresh bruising, when the alleged incident should have occurred three days prior, by which time the bruises would have started to discolour. It also noted that the woman was under psychiatric care for depression and suicidal ideation.

The court said it was of the opinion that the prosecution could not build a case of molestation around the fact that the woman had two small bruises. “The evidence that it must bring must be far better and…would leave no reasonable doubt in the mind of the judge.”

The judge also noted that the man had opted to testify, despite not being obliged to and that his testimony had been corroborated by the other witnesses.

The court said that the alleged victim had not been consistent in her testimony and had “increased the dose” every time she told her story, so much so that she had told the court that the man had also asked to have sex with her, despite none of the other witnesses - to whom she had told her story many times - mentioning this.

The court said it didn’t feel that the conclusion reached by the first court was safe and satisfactory and so cleared the man, declaring him not guilty of all charges.

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