A woman who was secretly filmed having sex when she was still a minor has won over €32,000 in damages, in a civil suit judgement 14 years after the traumatic incident.
The woman had been underage at the time and in a relationship with one of the five men against whom she filed the civil suit, seeking damages for the psychological trauma the incident caused her.
She was secretly filmed while having sex with her then-boyfriend and the compromising footage was subsequently copied onto CDs which were put into circulation via a DVD store.
One of those copies ultimately ended up at the minor’s home and the police had subsequently filed criminal charges against the five men, who had admitted to charges of producing and circulating the indecent material involving the underage girl.
Five years later, a medical assessment of the victim certified a 30% psychological debility.
The woman subsequently filed a civil action for damages against two of the accused, while the three others were subsequently joined into the suit.
The respondents argued that they had only pleaded guilty for the purpose of plea bargaining.
But the First Hall, Civil Court, presided over by Mr Justice Grazio Mercieca, threw out that argument, observing that an admission by the accused has always been considered as best evidence, dispensing with the need to seek further proof.
None of the respondents could deny the link between the action committed and the harm suffered by the applicant, the court said.
Delving into a detailed study of a long line of judgments concerning the issue of moral damages, Mr Justice Mercieca concluded that the relative provisions in the Civil Code allowed both physical as well as moral or psychological damages.
Through an exercise in justice and common sense, our courts had deemed psychological damage as “real” as purely physical damage and equally capable of impinging upon the victim’s ability to maximize future earnings.
“Psychic harm certainly merited more compensation than minimal physical harm which caused no functional effect, whether psychological or work-related,” the court observed.
Applying this reasoning to the facts at hand, the court made reference to a second psychological assessment of the victim, nine years after the first exam, which had certified a 6% psychological debility.
The drop from 30% to 6% was due to the fact that, luckily, the woman had managed to overcome to a great extent, the trauma of that “devastating experience” endured 14 years ago.
She had since established a stable relationship, embraced motherhood and also taken up a regular job, the court observed.
Whilst declaring the action as time-barred in respect of two of the men, the court upheld the woman’s claim against the three others, binding them jointly to pay €32,656 in personal and psychological damages to the victim of their criminal wrongdoing.
The court based its calculations on a national minimum wage of €7,000 back in 2006.
Lawyers Veronique Dalli and Andrew Saliba assisted the applicant.
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