Friday, August 22, 2014

Fr Jesmond Gauci: Gozo court upholds police appeal, lifts ban on the publication of priest's Name

A court in Gozo has upheld an appeal by the police to lift the ban on the name and identify of the Gozitan priest accused of defiling minors.

The priest has now been identified as being Fr Jesmond Gauci, of Xaghra. Sources told MaltaToday that the priest, who is in his early 40s, has been a priest for around 10 to 12 years and he was recently employed as a religion teacher at a boys’ secondary state school in Hamrun. Sources also said that the accused is known as Il-Papa.

Sources also said the priest was said to have been in the company of 15-year-old girls in a boat.

In its appeal filed on Tuesday, the police claimed that there should not be a ban on the publication of the name of the priest, arguing that the accused and the alleged victims are not relatives, and consequently, the decision to ban the former’s name is not justified.

“There is no reason why the court upheld the request to ban the publication of the names. There was no ban during other cases, and in addition, this case is nothing special,” police sources told MaltaToday.

On Tuesday, the Gozitan priest, was granted bail against a deposit of €1,000 and a personal guarantee of €5,000 after pleading not guilty to charges of child molestation, in what it is understood to have been criminal acts taking place over several months and involving a number of minors. Moreover, Magistrate Paul Coppini also imposed a ban on the publication of the name of the priest, also prohibiting media from publishing photos of the accused.

However, the decision has now been overturned after the Gozo Court of Magistrates, presided by Magistrate Neville Camilleri, upheld the police’s appeal, arguing that the ban on publication of the priest’s name should be lifted.

Victims were said to be aged close to 15, but one of the girls is said to be aged eight years old. The alleged abuse is said to have occurred up until some months ago. Sources also said that the priest is “well known to Gozitan families,” while girls “instantly knew on what and about whom they were being interrogated about.”

Despite the court upholding the police’s appeal, police sources are adamant that the sitting should be heard behind closed doors, arguing that given the sensitive nature of the case, the decision is justified.

Moreover, sources have also MaltaToday that the Attorney General is claiming that the decision to release the priest on bail should be revoked in fear of the priest tampering evidence. In addition, the AG is also calling for the appeals’ court to revoke the first court’s decision to ban the priest’s name.

The AG’s appeal is now expected to be heard before Judge Michael Mallia in Malta.

Inspector Sylvana Briffa is leading the prosecution.

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