71-year-old host accused of violent indecent assault on foreign language student

A man has been charged with violent indecent assault after allegedly slapping the bottom of a language student he was hosting at his home

A man has been charged with violent indecent assault after allegedly slapping the bottom of a language student he was hosting at his home.

The 71-year-old man, who cannot be named by order of the court, appeared in the dock before magistrate Monica Vella earlier today, charged with violently and indecently assaulting a Colombian student on 14 July at his home in Siggiewi.

Inspector Roderick Agius told the court how, yesterday, the 17-year-old English language student and school representatives had filed a report at the Qormi police station. She had told police that on 14 July this year, when she arrived home, the accused had welcomed her with a kiss on the cheek. He had wanted three kisses and she had felt uncomfortable and said no. When she bent over to take off her shoes, he had slapped her buttocks, reported the inspector.

The girl, who is due to leave Malta this week after spending a month on the island, took the witness stand after declaring that she had no objection to testifying in the presence of the accused.

The alleged victim is Colombian but resides in Spain.

She pointed out the accused in the courtroom, saying that she had been living in his house for three weeks. After the incident, she had spoken with a school representative, who promptly moved her to another host family, she said.

Asked by defence lawyer Mark Fenech Vella how she had reacted to the slap, she said: “I didn’t know what to do, I was in shock.”

“No one else was in the room at the time,” explained the girl. “It was in the evening at around 9pm.”  It only happened one time and was not accidental, she added.

The lawyer asked whether she was aware that the accused and his wife kissed their guests on the cheeks. She replied that the man’s wife had welcomed her with a kiss but not him and that the incident had happened on the one day that the mother was not at home.

The accused protested that his wife was always there. The victim corrected herself, saying that she didn’t know where the wife was.

Inspector Agius told the court that the man was a recidivist. During questioning, the man had told the police that it was normal for him to give two kisses on the cheek to guests, he said.

The man’s lawyer asked the inspector whether this welcome practice had been extended to other guests. “What worries me is not the kiss, it’s the touching,” replied the inspector.

At first, he denied touching the girl, but later conceded that he might have done so “by accident,” he explained.

He confirmed that the school had told the police that no such reports had ever been received in relation to the host family in question.

The man entered a not guilty plea and requested bail, in view of the fact that the only vulnerable witness had testified.

Bail was granted, with the court issuing a provisional protection order for the alleged victim. The accused was ordered to sign a bail book weekly, deposit of €1,000 and provide a personal guarantee of €5,000, with the court ordering him under no circumstances to approach the girl again.

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