Godwin Scerri, the defrocked priest, who the Courts jailed five years after they found him guilty of abusing boys in his care, should also be found guilty of rape, Philip Galea Farrugia, for the Attorney General, insisted this morning.

Making submissions in the AG's appeal against the Magistrate's decision to acquit Mr Scerri of rape, Dr Galea Farrugia said there was no real contestation that the rape took place.

Mr Scerri was cleared of the rape charge only because it had happened in one place when the charge sheet listed that it happened at another.

Lawyer Patrick Valentino, who is appearing for the victims, asked Mr Justice David Scicluna for the case to be heard rather quickly because the victims already had to wait a long time for justice in the Magistrates Court. There were 77 sittings, with the prosecution closing its case after seven. Twenty-seven of the other sittings were deferments at the request of the defence team.

In response, Giannella de Marco, who is representing Mr Scerri, said that there were a number of reasons for the deferrals, including the terrible state of one of the accused - Fr Joseph Bonnett, who had since died. Fr Bonnett had been suffering from bone cancer but still made the effort to go to court. Other deferrals had been requested because the magistrate was unwell and it was even more difficult to defend one from allegations which went back such a long time.

Quoting extensively from case law, Dr de Marco said the prosecution had enough time to correct this mistake in the charge sheet but did not.

The case was deferred for judgement to March 28.