A man was cleared of sexually abusing his 15-year-old stepdaughter after a court heard how she lied because she was angry that he had disciplined her by cutting her off the internet.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit heard how the girl, who did not have a good relationship with her biological father, felt rejected and often lied to get her way and to feel socially accepted.

Even though she described her stepfather as a “father figure”, she felt rejected when a step-sibling was born.

The court heard how the girl was angry at him when he disciplined her by turning off the internet connection and went on to lie about the abuse.

The stepfather was charged with defiling and sexually abusing the girl, who was then 15, and her younger sister on and before 2022.

Prosecuting police inspector Joseph Zammit testified that the police intervened following a report by government support agency Appoġġ.

The girl and her sister claimed they were being defiled by their stepfather. However, when testifying via video conference, the girls admitted they lied.

The magistrate appointed two psychiatrists to speak to the girls and report back. The court experts concluded the minors believed they had lied. However, they could not rule out the abuse completely. For this reason, the magistrate went on to hear more evidence.

The mother testified that she was married to the stepfather for nine years and he supported her and her daughters from a previous relationship.

The mother had other children with the stepfather. She said her eldest daughter was known for lying and got in trouble in the past.

Some school friends also said the girl told them she was abused and claimed that her stepfather was a drug dealer.

The magistrate heard forensic psychologist Chantal Avellino, who said the girl was very angry that her stepfather had turned off the internet.

This is why she convinced her younger sister to invent a story about him.

“It looks like the girl did not imagine this would escalate to this point and her goal was to make sure he never disciplined her again,” the expert said.

Avellino added that the girl described the stepfather as “a father figure” who was “there for us” and “filled the void” and “cared" for them.

She spoke about how their relationship changed when a younger sibling was born. That was when “he started to withdraw a little”, which could have led to a sense of rejection.

Avellino said the girl did not have a good relationship with her biological father and felt rejected. She used the words “all dads come and go”.

The girl had psycho-emotional issues and such people tended to be impulsive, emotional, and moody and fail to think about consequences.

The girl did not feel socially accepted and told tall tales and exaggerated to try to fit in. In light of all this, the magistrate cleared the man of the charges.

Lawyers Franco Debono Debono and Marion Camilleri represented the stepfather.

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