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Police unhappy with priest abuse sentence, likely to appeal

Victim, who had mental health problems, also disappointed

On Wednesday, Fr Charles Fenech was given a suspended three-month sentence for violent indecent assault.

On Wednesday, Fr Charles Fenech was given a suspended three-month sentence for violent indecent assault.

The police and the Attorney General’s Office are likely to appeal the sentence handed down to Fr Charles Fenech, who was found guilty of the violent indecent assault of a vulnerable woman.

Sources have said the police were not happy with the punishment meted out to the former director of the Kerygma Movement, who was given a three-month jail term, suspended for a year.

Times of Malta is informed that the victim, who at the time had mental health problems, is also disappointed with the punishment.

According to the law, the police have eight working days – until Wednesday – to file a note in the acts of the case, through which they can express their intention to appeal.

The Attorney General will then be notified and, in turn, will have another eight days to file his appeal.

Since Fr Fenech is a Dominican friar, he does not fall under the direct authority of the diocesan bishop (Archbishop Charles Scicluna). His direct superior is the Provincial of the Dominican Order, and any proceedings to defrock him must be initiated within the Order, with the final decision needing to be taken by the relevant congregation in Rome.

Fr Fenech was charged in 2014.

Any proceedings to defrock him must be initiated within the Order, with the final decision needing to be taken by the relevant congregation in Rome

He was summoned to appear before Magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona, but 17 months after the charges were filed, the case had not started to be heard yet, because on three occasions, he submitted medical certificates saying he was unable to attend court sittings.

When the matter finally became public, Fr Fenech was prevented from exercising his priestly duties and removed from the posts he occupied. Action was taken against him after the victim went to the police in 2011 claiming that Fr Fenech had taken advantage of her vulnerability and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

At the time, she was going through separation proceedings, suffering from depression and receiving treatment at Mount Carmel Hospital after having attempted suicide a number of times.

Throughout the court proceedings – which were heard behind closed doors upon the insistence of Fr Fenech’s lawyers – it emerged that the priest had tried to kiss the woman but she had rejected his advances.

The victim said that she had also been groped by the priest and that there had been episodes of oral sex in her home and even at Fr Fenech’s convent.

Times of Malta's attempts to contact the Dominican Order in Malta yesterday proved futile.

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