Msida police rape trial symptomatic of a ‘culture of impunity’

Malta Women’s Lobby Chair Anna Borg had words of condemnation for Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera’s 20 March ruling on the Msida police station rape case, saying it creates “a culture of impunity” when contacted by The Shift.

She said, “The system punishes the victim while emboldening perpetrators to continue harassing and raping women, fearing no consequence.”

Borg was contacted after the MWL said in a statement that it was “beyond shocked at the manner in which a rape victim has been discredited and punished,” about Scerri Herrera’s 20 March court ruling, which found a police officer not guilty of raping a colleague.

Scerri Herrera’s judgement ruled that the victim, a police officer who accused another 33-year-old officer of sexually harassing and raping her at the Msida Police Station in 2018 when she was 19, could not be believed as her version of events “was not credible”, according to the court.

Borg said the judgement “confirms the deep-rooted, systemic and internalised misogyny that pervades our society”. She added that “in the overwhelming majority of cases, women victims of rape or sexual harassment or violence are not believed.”

The MWL stresses, “Research repeatedly shows that (rape) victims often make mistakes with regards to the timeline of events, precisely because such events are so traumatic.”

Speaking to The Shift, Borg said, “There is an urgent need for the judiciary to receive trauma training to realise that the trauma can impact on the testimony of the survivors and can make it appear inconsistent – when this is actually part of the impact of the rape itself.”

The MWL is demanding, “An immediate and thorough review of the police force, the judicial system and other institutions.”

The organisation said, “We are sick to our back teeth with systemic failures, flawed procedures, evident misogyny, victim blaming, blatant discrimination, lack of resources, and no accountability whatsoever.

“The system is broken. We’re fed up with the rhetoric. It’s time for concrete action.”

NGO Men Against Violence also issued a statement similarly condemning the judgement and called for police and legal system reform. “We need standard, victim-centred policies and procedures when collecting evidence in rape and sexual assault cases in order to prevent technical mistakes”.

A ‘laughable’ court ruling

While the court ruled that the accused was not guilty of the rape, stating that the victim’s testimony was not credible, it concurrently, found him guilty of sexually harassing another female colleague. The court sentenced the unnamed ex-officer to one year in prison, suspended for two years.

During the case, the court also ruled that the accused former police constable’s confession, in which he admitted to raping his colleague, was inadmissible since the police caution had not been administered according to the law at the time.

The MWL statement said that was “laughable”, and asked, “were the officers who charged him incompetent in matters of procedure? Or, perhaps, was this a convenient ‘get out of jail’ card, played to manipulate the system?”.

Borg remarked that it is unsurprising that 85% of sex offences in Malta go unreported, citing a 2016 Ministry of Home Affairs study, considering, “women have been, and continue to be, let down by the institutions”.

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Pauline Zahra
Pauline Zahra
2 months ago

Excellent article, thumbs up, you nailed it.

2 months ago
Reply to  Pauline Zahra

I believe the women no matter what the outcome was I am sure it was far from easy for both these women to come forward . Did he not admit?

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