Court orders that priests charged with rape be detained under arrest at Corradino Correctional Facility pending hearing of evidence
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Report: Mario Micallef
This morning, two priests accused of allegedly raping an underage boy were arraigned at the Gozo court. They arrived in a Police van at around 7.30 am. The alleged victim of the sexual abuses by the two priests was present outside the Courtroom.
First to be arraigned was 84-year-old Dun Ġużepp Sultana, born and residing in Xaghra, who pleaded not guilty. Magistrate Monica Vella did not uphold the request to ban publication of the priest’s name. She ordered however that the name of the victim should not be published by any means.
The alleged victim was called to give evidence, with the Court accepting a plea for the alleged victim to testify today as he lives abroad. The Police requested that the victim’s evidence be given through video conferencing, with the alleged victim being present in the court building. The priest’s Defence Counsel objected, saying the witness was not a minor. The Court acceded to the request for the evidence to be given through video conferencing.
Inspectors Joseph Busuttil and Dorianne Tabone prosecuted. Dr Angele Formosa is Defence Counsel for Dun Ġużepp Sultana, and Dr Jean Paul Grech is appearing parte civile for the alleged victim.
The witness stated that the first person with whom he had opened up had been Dun Anton Teuma, today Bishop of Gozo, and after Dun Anton became Bishop, he had spoken with Fr Dominic who frequents Ta’ Pinu. The witness stated that both priests urged him to report to the Safeguarding Commission.
The witness met with the Chairperson of the Commission Andrew Azzopardi and made out a report. The witness added that Dun Ġużepp Sultana used to put his hand under the altar boy’s cassock and touch his private parts. This used to take place in the sacristy of Xagħra parish church, and he would take him into the confessional, a small room in the same sacristy. Witness added that underneath the cassock he used to wear jeans or shorts, and the priest used to unbutton the garment to get at his private parts. This went on for about a year to eighteen months. Witness added he used to be very confused.
Witness further stated that he sometimes refused, but Dun Ġużepp used to take him by the hand and lead him to the confessional. He added that the priest had told him he would go to hell, and he used to frighten him by threatening to tell his family. The witness stated that Dun Ġużepp was violent and threatening, and would force himself upon him. When the abuse did not take place in the confessional, it would take place in a place known as the parish priest’s hall, to which there was access from the sacristy.
It resulted from cross-examination of the alleged victim that the abuse would last between two and three minutes, when the priest would touch his private parts through his cassock and clothes.
A request was made for bail, with the Police objecting on the grounds that four other witnesses, all members of the clergy in Gozo, still have to give evidence, adding that up to last week there was evidence of telephone calls by Dun Ġużepp Sultana to these other priests. The Police added that the same Dun Ġużepp Sultana had sent a letter to the alleged victim on 12 January, refuting the allegations prior to his arrest.
A heated argument developed between Defence and Prosecution regarding this letter, which the Police described as polite threats against the alleged victim in order to confuse investigations. Magistrate Monica Vella denied the request for bail.
Hearing of evidence against Dun Ġużepp Ċini
At the start of the hearing of evidence against Dun Ġużepp Cini, the alleged victim stated that the abuses took place in the home and in the car. The witness stated that on one occasion he had taken him home and washed his hands in the toilet. He further testified that the accused used to pull down the alleged victim’s trousers and would put the alleged victim’s private part into his mouth. Witness further stated that the accused would also take him in his car and take hold of his hand and make him touch his private parts.
In his evidence, the alleged victim stated that in his last meeting with Dun Ġużepp Cini at home, the accused had forced himself on him. He further testified that he had felt so much pain that he had started crying and shouting, but the priest had not stopped. He further stated that every time there had been a sexual encounter, Dun Ġużepp Cini used to give him money.
Witness added, in an emotional voice, that all this had affected him badly and he had started doing badly at school, had started drinking, started with fits of anger and had tried to commit suicide. Starting to cry, the witness added that to this day he feels he has not come back to normal. Asked by the Prosecution whether he had asked for any compensation from the Curia or from the accused, the witness replied in the negative, adding that he had only requested the Safeguarding Commission for the whole truth to come out.
In terms of money, the alleged victim stated that on every occasion when these things had taken place, Dun Ġużepp used to give him some money, ranging from 40 cents to five Maltese liri. The five liri had been given on the last occasion, when the rape had taken place.
In reference to the pain he had felt during the rape, the witness said there were no words to describe it. Asked to specify, he stated that it was a big pain in his backside, and it had lasted for two days. At this point, the Prosecution specified that from the report to the Safeguarding Commission, the alleged victim had stated that Dun Ġużepp Cini had penetrated with his private part into the alleged victim’s backside.
A request for bail was made by Defence Counsel. The Prosecution objected strongly, pointing out that the charges against Dun Ġużepp Cini were far more serious than those in the first case, adding that this was a case of rape. The Prosecution added that it was feared evidence could be tampered with, through contact between the accused and witnesses.
Magistrate Monica Vella ordered that Dun Ġużepp Cini should also be remanded in custody, and both priests will be brought over to Malta to be detained at Corradino Correctional Facility until further evidence is heard at another sitting.
The Police stated yesterday that the arrest had been made following days of investigation, with officers from the Anti-Vice Squad having collected enough evidence to be able to start criminal proceedings against the two priests. It was stated that the alleged abuses took place several years ago when the alleged victim had been an altar boy.