An elderly man serving jail time for sexually abusing his young granddaughter has won an appeal, with the Supreme Court overturning the sentence citing lack of a fair trial.
The case goes back to 2016, when a then nine year old girl came forward with allegations against her 74-year-old grandfather, accused of sexually molesting her between June 2014 and August 2015.
The little girl had initially complained to her teacher at school about being a victim of sexual abuse. The school then notified authorities and the girl shared her story with other officials, including the police, a social worker, a counselor, and the school’s principal, who were shocked at hearing rape allegations between blood relatives.
Initial reports said the girl had also accused her 13-year-old brother of sexually abusing her, with a medical exam reportedly confirming that the girl had shown signs of rape.
The judges said that denying access to a fair trial, by not calling witnesses who could corroborate facts, rendered the girl's testimony weak
According to court documents, the grandfather was charged with 40 different counts of sex-related crimes, including sexually molesting his granddaughter. The court heard that he was fondling and touching the girl inappropriately in sensitive areas of her body while they were in bed.
The wife of the accused, as well as his son - the father of the girl who is separated from her mother - were called as witnesses and all rejected the accusations, saying the girl was never alone with her grandfather in the house, where they all lived along with the couple’s daughter and her fiancé.
But the Nicosia Criminal Court found the witnesses to be unreliable, convicting and sentencing the man to seven years in prison based on a 2-1 decision, with two judges finding the girl as a reliable witness.
But another judge, who said the allegations were not corroborated, issued a dissenting opinion based on the girl’s different accounts of the crimes allegedly committed by her grandfather.
The Supreme Court examined the appeal filed by the man’s attorney and found that prosecutors failed to call crucial witnesses to take the stand.
The little girl had spoken of her brother and her parents during her deposition, including her mother, with the dissenting male judge during the criminal trial saying they should have been called as corroborating witnesses. But the two female judges sided with the prosecutor at the time, who said those witnesses had nothing substantial to add to the case.
The man’s attorney filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on the basis his client had not received a fair trial, with the judges ruling in the claimant’s favour and declaring his 18 months in jail so far as time served.
The appellate court specifically said in its ruling that denying access to a fair trial, by not calling witnesses who could corroborate facts, rendered the testimony given by the original plaintiff as weak.