A school van driver has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for repeatedly raping an eight-year-old girl.
Police were first made aware of the case in 2015 after the victim’s therapist reported the incident to officers. She was visiting the therapist over pseudo-seizures that started when she turned 16 and began her first relationship.
In 2006, the victim, whose name has been hidden by court order, was a regular passenger of her attacker’s school van and would often sit in the front seat.
She would typically be the fifth person to be dropped off by the van. However, he would occasionally drop her off last.
One day, her life changed forever when the van driver, James Grech, took her to an abandoned field near her home and molested her.
In six separate assaults, she was attacked, molested, and on two occasions raped by the man, who was 33-years-old at the time.
On several occasions, the young victim began weeping. However, the man would respond with physical attacks, including throwing her across the van and on one instance kicking her several times in the stomach.
Through threats, the man would tell the young girl to tell her mother she got injured in the school’s playground.
One day a nun at the school she attended noticed the man playing with the young girl’s hair. She told the nun that she did not want to be on that van. However, she did not divulge the extent of her abuse.
It all ended there. But the victim was emotionally and mentally scarred by the incident – spending years in therapy because of the attacks.
She would eventually open up to her therapist, who requested an urgent magisterial inquiry into the issue.
Magistrate Audrey Demicoli sentenced the man to 12 years in prison and issued a small fine. The victim is subject to a four-year protection order.
Malta has an alarming rate of sexual abuse, with close to 80% of cases going unreported. It is made even harder with time-barring.
Time-barring prevents victims from reporting the assault to the police after a certain period. Minors, for example, are given 10 to 15 years (depending on the case) to report the crime.
This means that if a person was eight-years-old when they were sexually abused, they would have till 24 to come forward.
The government is yet to address the issue.
Lawyer Joe Giglio appeared on behalf of the victim.
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