A minibus driver has been jailed for 12 years for the violent rape of an eight-year-old girl.
James Grech, 33, was charged of having, in June 2006, committed violent rape on the girl, corrupted her and held her against her will.
A report had been filed in 2006 after the girl said she had been touched but the police had found that there was not enough information to prosecute.
In 2014, the girl started seeing a psychiatrist after she started experiencing pseudo seizures. This happened when she had her first relationship with a boyfriend. At the time, she was 16 years old.
The police were informed about the case by the girl’s psychiatrist in February 2015.
Testifying by videoconference, the girl told the court that the driver had initially touched her leg and she decided to start sitting at the back of the van. On one occasion, Grech drove the van into a field, went to the back and touched her. He then told her not to say a word to anyone, threatening to hurt her sister if she did.
The following day he took her to the same place and forced her to perform a sex act on him.
On another occasion, he became angry and threw her to the other side of the van, causing her to bleed from the mouth and nose. The accused wiped the blood off with his shirt, took her home and told her to say she hurt herself at the playground. The following day, he raped her. The girl said she was raped again on the following two days, but on one occasion the driver kicked her repeatedly in the stomach before he abused her.
The girl said she had spoken to a Sister at her school after she saw the driver caressing another girl’s hair. She only told the Sister that she had been touched, thinking this would be enough for the school to put her on a different minibus.
The girl’s parents told the court that they had noticed a change in the girl’s behaviour and that she had returned home with a bloody lip on one occasion. They also read their daughter’s diary, in which she described her ordeal in detail.
The court also spoke to a number of other psychiatrists and social workers who had also spoken to the girl.
When giving a statement to the police in 2015, Grech denied all accusations and said he might have touched the girl accidentally when telling her to put her seatbelt on.
Testifying three years later, he insisted that she was never the last one to be dropped off. He said the girl would continuously want to change seats and he would tell her off because he wanted his passengers to remain seated.
After hearing all witnesses, the court, presided over by Magistrate Audrey Demicoli, said it had no doubt about the girl’s credibility.
It said that the girl had relived her experiences when testifying by video conference and some of the things she claimed had been corroborated by her parents and one of the other girls who used to ride with her in the van. On the other hand, there were inconsistencies between Grech’s testimony and his 2015 statement.
It was also clear, the court noted, that the girl suffered from pseudo seizures as a result of her traumatic experience.
Rape had occurred on at least two occasions, and the girl, being a minor, could never have consented to sex.
It found Grech guilty of the rape and corruption charge but acquitted him on the third, that of holding the girl against her will.
In view of the gravity of the crime, and the effects that the traumatic experience left on the victim, the court said it had to impose a sentence that is close to the maximum.
It jailed Grech for 12 years and placed the girl under a 4-year probation order.
The court imposed a ban on the publication of the girl’s name and ordered that Grech’s name be entered into the sex offender’s register. He was also ordered to pay €500 in court fees.
Inspector Paula Ciantar prosecuted. Lawyer Joe Giglio appeared on behalf of the victim.