Former priests' appeal: Judgement on October 26
The judgement on the appeals of two former priests convicted of child abuse will be delivered on October 26.
The final submissions by both the prosecution and the defence were heard in court this morning as the accused stood in the dock and two of the victims fidgeted as they heard the proceedings.
During today’s hearing, the sitting was stopped for 20 minutes while the judge, the prosecution and the defence watched a video in which victim Laurence Grech stripped a 12-year-old boy naked.
The two former priests Godwin Scerri and Charles Pulis, both members of the Missionary Society of St Paul, were sentenced to five and six years in prison respectively for sexually abusing boys in their care.
A third member of the same Order, Bro. Joseph Bonnett, who had been facing the same charges, passed away two years ago.
Prosecutor Elaine Rizzo, from the Attorney General’s office, said the defence had tried to attack victim Laurence Grech by saying that he had agreed with the other victims to come up with the abuse story.
But it was only after Mr Grech spoke on Bondi+ had the other victims come forward. This showed that there had been was no such arrangement. This also gave Mr Grech absolute credibility.
She referred to an instance when a social worker saw one of the priests with an erection while playing around with one of the boys.
Dr Grech said that although she was not a man, she had seen men playing around with children and none had had an erection. Such behaviour, she said, could not be justified and was completely unacceptable.
“In its judgement, the judiciary cannot give the impression that it lives in a vacuum… It is true that the courts should not bend to popular opinion but society is hurt and justice also has to be done with society, the victims and the institutes, which have also been hurt,” she said.
Presenting the defence arguments, Giannella de Marco referred to statements by Philip Galea Farrugia from the AG’s office in an earlier sitting, that the defence counsel had launched a personal and ferocious attack on the only victim to come forward and should be found in contempt of court
Dr de Marco said he was hurt when she saw the AG treating her clients and their defence arguments as just some obstacle.
If anything, it was the AG’s office that should be found in contempt for words they had used to describe the defence counsel and which had never before been seen in an appeal document.
These were hamallagni, she said.
“They attacked us personally and this is completely unacceptable.”
Dr de Marco said the first court could not have legitimately and reasonably reached a guilty verdict.
She called victim Oliver Goodram a liar and said that his problem was not that he gave evidence 18 years after the alleged incident took place and could not remember what happened but that he was a liar and his allegations were a fantasy.
At this point, the sitting was halted for the judge, the prosecution and the defence to watch the video in which Mr Grech stripped a 12-year-old boy, who was also one of the victims, naked.
Dr de Marco said that the AG had likened the behaviour in the video to a bachelor’s party.
“I’ve never been to a bachelor’s party and I do not know what the AG’s tastes are but what fun is there in a 28-year-old man stripping naked a 12-year-old boy in the presence of his wife and daughter and other men who are banging chairs and shouting,” she asked.
She said she also found completely unacceptable the AG’s attitude to the defence counsel during the appeal.
The victim stripped naked in the video, who was born in 1987, she said, had given various versions of what had happened, none of which were credible.
He had lived at the institute for 10 years and no allegations had ever surfaced while he lived there despite there being psychologists, teachers, social workers, helpers and other priests.
The allegations only surfaced when Mr Grech came into the picture.
Dr de Marco said it was very suspicious how before every court sitting, the victims met at Mr Grech’s house. This was very convenient and suspicious.
Mr Grech, she said, had a system of conduct which showed that he lied.
He lied to Lou Bondi five times, he lied to the court and was charged with filing a false police report involving insurance fraud.
She referred to what had been described by the prosecution as the Stockholm Syndrome when the victims invited the priests to their weddings and their children’s baptisms and said Stockholm Syndrome involved a girl who had been beaten, sexually abused and locked up as a prisoner and had nothing in common with what these men claimed to have suffered.
“Give me a break… Stockholm Syndrome, my foot,” she said adding that the common link in this case was Mr Grech.
Defence lawyer Joe Giglio reminded the court that none of the victims had testified that they were suffering any psychological trauma, especially from Stockholm Syndrome.
This, he said, did not result from any of the proceedings.
He referred to claims by Mr Grech that he did not kiss, hug and hold his daughter because he was afraid he would be abusing her. But his actions in the DVD were completely contradictory, he said.
The case was then deferred for judgement.