A young policewoman who was allegedly sexually harassed by a male colleague, told a court on Wednesday that she had blocked his unwelcome advances and taken control of the situation, not thinking of taking the matter any further.
The now-24 year old sergeant was testifying at the trial of the police officer, who stands accused of sexually harassing her and also twice raping another policewoman in 2018.
The sergeant was a young recruit at the time, assigned as beat officer at Sliema police station.
'His hand would move off the gear lever and up my leg'
She said the first signs emerged during one night shift when she accompanied the accused in a police car to serve notice of summons after normal hours to a female prostitute in the Msida area.
After they failed in a first attempt to effect delivery, they stopped near Manoel Island to book a man who was urinating in public and then proceeded on their way, planning to attempt delivery.
She said that throughout that drive, the accused’s hand found its way to her leg, just above the knee, as she sat in the passenger seat, while he joked that his hand “slipped from the gear lever.”
“My hand slips too….I’ll hit you,” she flung back, later recalling how she had taken those unwelcome advances in her stride.
“He grabbed my leg. It wasn’t just a one-off accident. It happened at least three times,” she recalled.
But matters did not stop there.
Whenever she stepped out of the car, the accused would comment favourably about her bottom and he placed his hand on her seat so that she would sit on it.
Firm stand against officer's advances
She would repeatedly hold herself up and order him to remove his hand.
She tried to block his advances, saying that they were both on duty, both in uniform and she was still a newcomer to the corps.
But his only reaction was to smile.
Once back at the police station, she told her superiors about what had happened.
“I thought I was handling it. I was a new officer. I didn’t want to get into trouble. I didn’t want to be labelled,” she said.
Soon after that night shift, the witness said she and the accused were delivering files to their superior and ferrying another officer back from court to Msida station. While in the car, seated behind the accused, he occasionally slipped his hands behind the seats, touching her ankle.
She told him to stop and saw him smile in the driver’s mirror.
He again commented about her bottom when she stepped out of the car to deliver some files in court.
When she complained of backache, he offered her a massage which she refused, saying that she’d rather get a professional massage.
He also offered her a weekend break.
“I didn’t give it much thought. I thought they were normal things I would come across on my shift. I just did my duty and went home,” she said.
The accused later showed her a text message on his mobile, renewing his offer for the weekend break, saying it “was not for sex but to get to know her better.”
“Forget it,” she said.
He looked at her and smiled.
She said the accused had once kissed her cheek as she straightened her back after bending down to pick some items from a vending machine at the Msida police station.
“Don’t do that again,” she warned, turning away and walking out of the room.
“I had no interest in the man. My main concern was not to get into trouble, having just joined the corps at the time.”
As for the other alleged victim, the officer said that the two had spoken when their shifts overlapped.
To date, she still did not know any details about what allegedly happened to the other victim.
“She just told me that he [the accused] had harassed her and she told me to be careful not to go through what she herself had been through.”
She said the two could not be described as friends but just colleagues.
Under cross-examination, the witness described the alleged rape victim as somewhat “strange” and “aloof” keeping herself away from others on her shift.
Work-related clashes were normal on shift and there was always a competitive streak.
“You were roped into this story by the other alleged victim. Would you have been here otherwise?”asked lawyer Edward Gatt, handling the defence together with lawyer Franco Debono.
“Up to those incidents, no. But perhaps as women we found courage in each other,” said the witness.
The trial continues. Names were not published by court order.
Attorney General lawyers Angele Vella and Darlene Grima are prosecuting.
Lawyers Edward Gatt and Franco Debono are defence counsel.
Lawyers Lara Dimitrijevic and Stephanie Caruana are appearing parte civile