A defence lawyer for one of two defrocked priests appealing a jail term for sexually abusing teenage boys three decades ago yesterday cast doubts on the veracity of the allegations, claiming the person behind the case did it for the money.

Lawyer Giannella de Marco said Lawrence Grech, who was appearing in the media on behalf of all the victims, was only after compensation.

She was making submissions before Mr Justice David Scicluna in the appeal filed by former priests Godwin Scerri and Charles Pulis, both members of the Missionary Society of St Paul, who were sentenced to five and six years in prison respectively for sexually abusing 11 young boys in their care in the 1980s and 1990s.

Mr Pulis and Mr Scerri, aged 64 and 75, were defrocked last year following independent Vatican investigations.

The Appeals Court last month confirmed a ruling by a magistrate clearing Mr Scerri of raping a boy because of a mistake in the charge sheet about where the crime had been committed.

The court said the prosecution could have corrected the mistake throughout the proceedings but it had not done so.

Dr de Marco and her colleague on the defence team, Joe Giglio, yesterday made their submissions on why the Appeals Court should overturn the decision by the Magistrates’ Court and free their clients from the charges brought against them.

During the proceedings two victims, including Mr Grech, sat at the back of the courtroom, a metre behind the former priests.

Dr de Marco questioned how plausible it was that Mr Grech had asked Mr Pulis to celebrate his wedding Mass if it were true that the former priest had sexually abused him and had hurt him so much.

She also questioned why another victim would call Mr Pulis from Australia to inform him of the birth of his daughter.

She said Mr Grech had organised a sort of get-together for St Joseph boys when he returned from Australia and had collected money to purchase a silver religious icon to give to Mr Pulis as a “best priest award”.

Dr de Marco, who is appearing for Mr Pulis, also queried the judgement handed down last August by Magistrate Saviour Demicoli, saying the first court looked at the defence theories as “obstacles” rather than lines of defence.

“The 95-page judgement looked more like a dissertation or a thesis for a PhD in the defilement of minors, quoting several judgements without making any link to the present case,” she said.

She continued: “Nowhere in such a long judgement did the first court refer to any of the lines of defence raised by the defence.”

She explained that the first point of her client’s appeal was that related to the charges being time-barred. Such charges became time-barred after 10 years while the allegations made against her client had taken place more than 15 years before he was charged.

Dr de Marco argued that the Magistrates’ Court should not have increased the punishment by two degrees because of a continuous crime – a crime committed over a period of time.

She quoted case law that laid down there could be no continuous crime when the crime committed was against the person.

Moreover, it did not apply when more than one victim was involved. At one point during the sitting, Mr Justice Scicluna informed everyone present that there had just been a bomb threat, adding, that he was prepared to continue hearing the case not to waste time.

“I have informed you all. Now, whoever wants to leave, can leave,” he said.

No one left.

Both lawyers raised the inadmissibility of the state-ments given to the police, saying these were taken before their clients were given the opportunity to consult a lawyer of their choice prior to interrogation.

A number of medical doctors yesterday testified on medical complications the former priests suffered. The court asked journalists present not to report on the details.

The hearing continues on Monday when Dr Giglio is expected to make his submissions on behalf of Mr Scerri.


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