THE supreme court on Thursday overturned a guilty verdict passed on a 72-year-old who had been previously sentenced to seven years in jail for sexually molesting his granddaughter, finding that the defendant did not get a fair trial.
In July 2017 the man was given seven years on 20 counts of sexual abuse of a minor and two-and-a-half years on 20 counts of indecent assault. The sentences ran concurrently.
He subsequently appealed the decision with the supreme court on the grounds that he did not receive a fair trial.
In a unanimous judgment, the supreme court found several faults with the decision of the Nicosia criminal court which had tried the case.
The alleged offences were committed between June 2014 and August 2015 in the home of the defendant.
The alleged molestation took place on occasions when the girl, nine years old at the time, spent time at her grandparents’ home. She and her brother were at the time living with their mother. Her parents were separated at the time, her father moved in with his parents, and the siblings would visit their father there every other weekend.
In November 2015 the girl confided to a school teacher about the alleged acts of her grandfather, and the teacher urged her to report the matter to the authorities.
Among other things, the girl had claimed that sometimes her grandfather would fondle her in a sexual manner while she, her grandfather and her grandmother lay in the same bed for an afternoon nap.
But the supreme court said that Nicosia criminal court had failed to adequately scrutinise the girl’s account, placing inordinate weight on a “subjective impression” of her credibility.
It said for example that the court of first instance had not bothered to explore the possibility of how it was possible for no one in the house to have noticed the goings-on.
Likewise not credible was the criminal court’s acceptance of the girl’s narrative that she had repeatedly told relatives of her plight, but that they did not believe her.
The other major fault with the initial decision, according to the supreme court, related to the fact that the prosecution had failed to summon as witnesses the girl’s parents and brother.
The criminal court had determined that the omission of these material witnesses from the stand did not impact the credibility of the other witnesses summoned to testify.
But the supreme court disagreed with that approach.
In its opinion, it said, the failure to summon the parents and the brother to testify infringed the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
The 72-year-old was acquitted of all charges and is to be released from jail.