Labour MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer has been given a suspended jail term after being found guilty of distributing pornographic photos of his ex-boyfriend in an attempt to discredit him.
The judgment, which is final since it was delivered by an appeals court, overturns a previous ruling by which Mr Engerer was acquitted.
The presiding magistrate had originally concluded that he had in fact circulated the images in question but she felt the evidence was not sufficient in the eyes of the law to lead to a conviction. The appeals court yesterday disagreed with this line and ruled that the 32-year-old Mr Engerer had an interest and motive to tarnish the victim.
Taken in light of the circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution, the case had been proven.
The case came to light in 2009 when Mr Engerer’s former boyfriend filed a report to the police complaining that private, compromising photos of him had been sent to his employer days after he broke up with Mr Engerer on Christmas Day.
The timing of the surprise development will be excruciating for Mr Engerer, who is seen to have a good chance of being elected to Brussels on the Labour ticket.
Legally, Mr Engerer could still contest the election following amendments to the Constitution, introduced in March, which allow people serving a suspended sentence to vote and run for elections. But Labour will face pressure to have him removed from the candidates’ list.
There was no comment from the government on the judgment yesterday.
Mr Engerer was unavailable for comment.
In the appeal judgment, Mr Justice Michael Mallia noted that Mr Engerer had threatened the victim, asking him to drop the court case to avoid more compromising and embarrassing things being revealed.
The threat was made towards the end of the compilation of evidence (in 2012), the judge said, when his defence counsel tried to exhibit a pen drive allegedly containing footage of the victim gathered by Mr Engerer.
Rightly so, the prosecution objected to this but the court did not give any directive and the envelope containing the pen drive remained filed with the case documents.
“This shows to which level Mr Engerer stooped to portray the victim in a negative light and make him withdraw his criminal complaint and hide his responsibility for the crime.
“Fortunately, he failed to commit such a deceitful plan,” the court said.
Mr Engerer had been charged with misusing a computer, illegally copying data and exposing it, circulating pornographic images and defaming his former boyfriend, who cannot be named by court order.
The victim had renounced criminal action which led to the charge of defamation being dropped.
Mr Engerer, the former deputy mayor of his hometown, resigned from the PN and switched to Labour in 2011. He is an EU policy and fund adviser to two ministries and chairs the consultative council set up to address LGBT issues.
Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri represented Mr Engerer.
The Nationalist Party yesterday called on the Prime Minister to shoulder political responsibility for the case, saying the court’s judgment was clear proof of his immaturity. To score a political goal against the PN, Joseph Muscat had taken into his party a person accused of spreading pornography.
He now had the duty to say what steps he planned to take against his preferred candidate and should make a public apology for letting him contest the European elections on the party’s behalf.
The PN also drew attention to the fact that Mr Engerer authored Dr Muscat’s biography.
Mr Engerer’s ex-boyfriend posted this comment on his Facebook page: “A court ruling does not change anything when moral responsibility has been paid.
“The case has been dropped cause I never wanted it to become a political ball.”