Man accused of forcing himself on a minor escapes jail sentence on appeal

The Appeals court decreed that there was insufficient evidence and repealed the sentence of the first court

23-year-old Neil Zammit, who was accused of forcing himself on a 14-year-old, was sentenced to two years in prison by the first court, a sentence that was revoked on appeal.

The Appeals court, presided over by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, decreed that there was insufficient evidence and repealed the sentence of the first court.

Back in 2016, Zammit’s alleged victim had told a Floriana health centre professional that she had been raped. The doctor in question filed a police report.

The victim told police officers that Zammit had forced himself on her in his car in Floriana, “ripped off her tights” and penetrated her despite her unwillingness to go along. She said that the accused had thrown away the jacket he had been wearing with which he wiped away her blood and his semen.

The court questioned why the victim had reported the rape two weeks after the incident.

In police testimony, however, officers claimed that the victim had initially stated that she was afraid to tell her parents about the incident and only after her friends started calling her a “bitch” did she inform the parents and go to a clinic in Floriana.

The Appeals court said that the prosecution had failed to locate the jacket and supply it as proof. There was also a discrepancy between the charge sheet provided by the prosecution and the police statement that the accused had apparently made. The former referred to the sexual encounter taking place on 3 April 2016 while the statement Zammit made to police referred to 15 May 2016.

The court deemed this inadmissible because the dates were far from corresponding.

The court also argued that the minor had changed her version of events. According to her initial statement, she had first met the accused on Facebook and they eventually met in Valletta in April 2016. He told her to get in the car and they drove to Floriana, to the Crown Works ditch close to the Park and Ride. She had said that the two went to the backseat and started kissing. Some clothes were removed. It was then that Zammit had said that he wanted to perform a sexual act and she had refused. The victim claimed that he had ripped off her tights and penetrated her.

The court said that this version had changed during testimonies and that her parents had also written a waiver to police asking that no charges be pressed because they wanted to protect their daughter.

“If there is at least one possibility that can create doubt as to whether the accused actually committed the crime, the court is unable to find the accused criminally responsible. The circumstantial evidence has to lead to one conclusion,” the court declared.

Zammit was also accused of driving recklessly but the defence pleaded that Zammit is now working “at a very stable job” and that he had a fixed and stable pay and needed a driving license.

“He should have thought about that earlier and weighed the consequences of his actions,” the court said, ordering the suspension of his driving license for a period of six months.

Zammit was also charged with disobeying police orders and recidivism.

His prison sentence was repealed and he was instead sentenced to a fine of €1,400. The court warned him that he was still young and had plenty of time to reform himself.

Inspectors John Spiteri and Joseph Busuttil prosecuted.

Lawyer Anthony Stellini appeared for Zammit.