Magistrate raps 'mock investigation' as man is acquitted of indecent assault

Prosecuting officer didn't send for accused or speak to victim

A Gozitan man was acquitted of the attempted violent indecent assault today but only after a magistrate chastised the prosecution for its shoddy work.

The 30-year-old man from Żebbug, Gozo, was charged with having, one afternoon last March, allegedly attempted to assault a woman who was about to dispose of an old mattress at the Wastserv facility in Xewkija.

The victim had told the police that just as she was about to lift her load onto a container, the accused had stepped forward and after offering a helping hand, allegedly grabbed her tightly by the shoulders.

The court, presided over by magistrate Joseph Mifsud, observed that the alleged aggressor had categorically denied the woman's accusation from the start and had stood firm by his denial even when testifying under oath.

This was a case where the court was faced with two conflicting versions and where the only witnesses were the victim and the accused themselves. CCTV footage from the scene of the alleged assault proved of little use since it had not captured the incident.

The court strongly criticised the prosecuting officer who had not sent for the accused to record his statement and had not even bothered to speak to the victim. It was also noted that the officer had not checked the CCTV footage. Nor had she confirmed the facts with third parties who might have shed light upon the alleged incident.

Strongly condemning such "mock investigations," the court pointed out that it was useless for the prosecution to seek refuge under the guise of an appeal filed by the Attorney General.

The court noted that the victim had waited some four hours before filing a police report and had not even alerted the Wastserv management about the alleged incident.

The court declared that it was not morally convinced beyond reasonable doubt as to the accused's guilt, thus acquitting the man of both charges.

The court lastly ordered that a copy of the judgment be notified to the Police Commissioner.

Lawyer Kevin Mompalao was defence counsel.