'Barbaric': Young girl sexually abused by her cousin for seven years, court finds

'Barbaric': Young girl sexually abused by her cousin for seven years, court finds

Victim's testimony was credible, judge says

A young man began sexually abusing his cousin when she was just seven years old and raped her when she was 10, a court ruled on Friday.

The man, who is now 25, sat stunned and expressionless as Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera expressed disgust at his “barbaric and animal-like” behaviour and sentenced him to a decade behind bars. 

Photo: ShutterstockPhoto: Shutterstock

Madam Justice Scerri Herrera said she found the victim – who had testified earlier this week via video-conferencing – credible and consistent, and said that the way the abuse had come to light was symptomatic of a genuine case.

Years had passed yet she still recalled instances of abuse in detail, and her fears of breaking up the family if she spoke up had proven to be well-founded, the judge noted.

In a harrowing court sitting, the victim, who is now 16, had told the court that she had kept quiet about the abuse because she had lacked the courage to report it and feared breaking up her family.

“It did happen, I swear,” she told the court. “I faked a smile for seven years. I have a great sense of guilt. My self-esteem has suffered.”

When prodded by the judge, she had admitted to having once made a sexual advance towards her cousin, telling the court “I don’t know what came over me that time. I dropped a hint and he touched my private parts. Then I regretted it.”

The abuse happened at the house of the victim’s grandmother in Marsa, where her older cousin lived and where she would spend time while her mother was at work.

He began abusing her as a teen and continued to do so for seven years, with the sexual violence culminating one day when he had pushed her onto a washing machine and raped her. She was 10 years old at the time and he was 19.

Police told the court it appeared the girl had not realised for a long time that she was being sexually abused.

She had told investigators she had only realised that what he did to her was wrong after lessons at school, police testified.

The victim’s maternal family had turned on her after she reported the abuse, the court noted.

In a series of testimonies earlier this week, relatives painted her in an extremely negative light.

“She is a bit of a duttura,” an uncle of hers told the court, with other relatives calling her “supperva”, “bossy” and “the jealous type”.

In her judgement, Madam Justice Scerri Herrera noted that relatives seem to have been summoned to “add colour” – a defence tactic which the court appreciated was permissible.

Nevertheless, there was no reason for the court not to believe the victim’s version of events, Madam Justice Scerri Herrera said.

She said that the accusations of rape, sexual acts with a minor and defilement had been proven and found the accused guilty of the charges.

The lewd acts had happened over a seven-year span and were aggravated by their frequency and the victim’s young age, she said.

She sentenced the accused to a 10-year effective jail term and placed a protection order in the victm’s favour.

The court ordered a ban on the name of both the victim and the accused.

The accused is expected to appeal the judgement. 

Lawyers Nadia Attard, Matthew Xuereb and Charles Mercieca from the AG’s Office prosecuted.