Fr Charles Fenech acquitted of having sexually abused a woman

Sex was consensual and the woman knew what she was doing, appeals court finds

Fr Charles Fenech

Fr Charles Fenech

Fr Charles Fenech, the former director of the Kerygma Movement, has been acquitted of having sexually abused a vulnerable woman after an appeals court found that the relationship between the two was consensual and the woman knew exactly what she was doing.

The priest was however fined for having had sex with the woman in public places.

Fr Fenech, who had been previously sentenced to three months imprisonment suspended for a year, had his sentence revoked. He was however sentenced to a week's imprisonment, suspended for six months, for having had sex in a public place. He was also fined €500.

Two appeals had been filed, one by Fr Fenech seeking acquittal, and one by the attorney general seeking a higher punishment. 

Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera in a 61-page judgement said that it had not been proven that the Dominican priest had sexually assaulted the woman or that he had exploited her because she had mental problems.

Although the two had had a relationship and met at various places for sex, there was no doubt that the woman could stop the relationship whenever she wanted and the sex was consensual.

It was the woman herself who used to call for Fr Fenech in her car.

Had she been so vulnerable, she would not have been the one to initiate action, but would have been on the defensive, the court observed. Yet she had even written in a glowing manner to the priest in a Valentine's Day card. 

The woman had also denied everything when the issue was first reported to the Curia.  

The Church has stopped Fr Fenech from any pastoral role in Malta and Gozo.

Lawyers Michae and Lucio Schriha and Franco Galea were legal counsel to Fr Fenech.