Adds new video - Two priests have been sentenced to six years and five years, respectively, after being convicted of sexually abusing boys at St Joseph Home in Hamrun.
They have given notice of appeal.
Fr Charles Pulis was sentenced to six years in jail after nine cases were proven against him. Eight took place in the home and another in Marfa.
Fr Godwin Scerri was sented to five years in jail on conviction of similar charges.
Sentence was delivered by Magistrate Saviour Demicoli in a judgement of over 100 pages, bringing to an end a case which first came to public attention in September 2003.The cases happened some 20 years ago.
The priests will appeal.
The victims welcomed the verdict.
"I am very satisfied. Many victims were scared of speaking out, this will help the truth to come out in more cases," Lawrence Grech told timesofmalta.com.
"They did a lot of harm, some of the victims ended up taking drugs, some have died. That hurt will never go away, Mr Grech said, with tears in his eyes.
He said that he hoped the process in the Church would now be concluded soon and that these two priests would be removed from the priesthood immediately.
It was regrettable, he said, that the Church process had taken too long and the apology given some months ago was not enough.
The court case started eight years ago.
The accused, Fr Godwin Scerri and Fr Charles Pulis stood expressionless in the dock as the judgement was read out, a process which took almost two hours.
They were charged with abusing 11 boys who were in their care. Fr Scerri was charged, on his own, of raping a boy at Marfa. He was acquitted of that charge because the rape had not taken place at Marfa, but at St Joseph Home.
In its verdict, the court said it agreed with the prosecution that this case was not time-barred.
The court said cases were proven against Fr Pulis in eight cases which occurred at St Joseph Home and another in Marfa.
The court noted that Fr Scerri had claimed he was not in Malta when the cases happened. There were two departure stamps on his passport- September 1985 and July 1990. There were no arrival stamps but the departure ones indicated he must have been in Malta for some time between the two departure dates, the court said.
The accused originally stood charged together with a third, who passed away last January, aged 63.
The victims, who were then aged between 13 and 16, were resident at St Joseph’s Home in Sta Venera in the late 1980s when the abuse took place.
The court had banned the publication of the priests’ names and the case was heard behind closed doors. At the same time, the Church Response Team initiated an investigation.
Under the gaze of the world’s media, the victims were last year given a private audience with the Pope in Malta. The Vatican promised it would look into their case following criticism of the Response Team, which had not yet concluded its investigation seven years on.
Subsequently, the victims held a private meeting with Archbishop Paul Cremona and Gozo Bishop Mario Grech.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, in June 2010, Archbishop Cremona apologised for the delay in the Church investigation. The Vatican’s Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Mgr Charles Scicluna, held meetings in Malta with some of the victims. He compiled their testimony and passed on the details to the Response Team.
Last October, the victims received a letter informing them that their cases were “founded” and the matter would be referred to the Vatican. Then, in January this year, the Vatican instructed the Maltese Church to set up a tribunal to conduct the judicial process into the abuse allegations
In April, Lawrence Grech – who became the spokesman for the victims – accused the Church of delaying tactics as regards its own tribunal, pending the outcome of the criminal court case.
However, in May, a member of the tribunal hearing the case against the priests met the victims to formalise evidence they gave to the Vatican’s chief sex abuse prosecutor last summer.
In April last year, the Curia reported that four Maltese priests were found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors and punished after their case was referred to the Holy See by the Church's response team.
Their punishment varied from not allowing them to exercise their ministry to limiting their pastoral work so that they could not work with minors and being placed under supervision.
The Curia also said that the response team, which was set up in 1999, had received a total of 84 allegations of child abuse, involving 45 Maltese priests.
Some of these cases went back to the 1970s. The response team had found a basis for the allegations made against 13 of the 45 cases.
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