A police constable has been found not guilty of raping a female colleague at the Msida police station but guilty of harassing a second woman, a teenage recruit.

In her judgment, Consuelo Scerri Herrera likened the station to a "brothel" but said that the lax and permissive behaviour there did not necessarily mean there was criminal wrongdoing.

She said that the alleged rape victim's version was not credible and cleared the officer of all charges in her regard. However, the defendant had overstepped the mark when it came to his behaviour towards the second woman, the judge ruled. 

She sentenced the 33-year-old defandant, who cannot be named by court order, to one year in prison, suspended for two years for harassment of the second victim.

He covered his face with both hands when he heard that he was cleared of rape, illegal arrest and sexual harassment of the first woman.  His pregnant wife rushed into the hall after the case was over, weeping and hugging her husband.

The trial had heard from the alleged rape victim, who claimed he had raped her in the Msida police station when they were both on duty in February 2018 and again the following month.  

Another colleague, a 19-year-old recruit, had also told the court that she was sexually harassed by the officer, including once inside a police car while out on night duty and another time while waiting outside Valletta's law courts.

During the trial, prosecutors told the judge that both women had been left traumatized by being abused by someone who was duty-bound to prevent crime. 

But defence lawyers had questioned the rape claims, saying they did not stand up to scrutiny and that the defendant's version of events - that there was consensual sex - made more sense.

They had argued that the teenage officer was also not sexually harrassed but was instead being 'courted' by the defendant and had previously said she regarded his advances as a joke.


The judge said that because there were no eyewitnesses, the alleged rape victim's testimony could not be corroborated and a detailed analysis of her account showed inconsistencies. 

It was "more likely" that the sex was consensual. The judge also pointed out that she had avoided the judge's questions about her personal life and only admitted under cross-examination that she had kissed another officer.

Normally rape victims would try to do everything to avoid their aggressor but in this case the woman changed her shift to be at Msida, sat in front of him at a sushi meal, and did not file for transfer after the alleged attack.

Her version was not credible, the judge concluded. 

Legal changes

Regarding the other victim, the accused had made comments about her bottom, had placed his hand under her when she sat on the passenger seat, tried to touch her leg in the car and spoke about his hand slipping from the gear stick. 

However for his behaviour to constitute sexual harassment at the workplace, the acts would have to be offensive, humiliating and intimidating to constitute harassment.

He was cleared of sexual harassment of both victims at the workplace because while the second woman did not welcome his advances, they were offensive but not intimidating and all three factors must be proved together. 

However, the judge ordered that the justice minister be notified of the judgment to make any necessary amendments to the law.

The judge said that the victim did not welcome his advances and he had overstepped the limits of what could be considered courting so she found him guilty of harassment.

In a surprise twist during the trial, the court declared that a statement from the former police constable in which he confessed to the crimes was inadmissible because of the way in which he had been cautioned.

The statement was made a day after the defendant had given a starkly different account in an audiovisual statement. He had claimed in that initial statement that the sex was consensual and that he had been infatuated with his young colleague but had not made physical contact.  

The man resigned from the force in March 2018, a month before being charged with rape. 

In her ruling, Scerri Herrera said that the behaviour at Msida police station does not seem to have taken place in other police stations, thus not impinging upon respect towards officers in uniform.

Attorney General lawyers Angele Vella and Darlene Grima were prosecuting. Lawyers Edward Gatt and Franco Debono were defence counsel. Lawyers Lara Dimitrijevic and Stephanie Caruana appeared parte civile. 

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