Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Jury set to decide ‘attempted rape' case

Chief Justice Derek Schofield will today be summing up in the case in which two local men are accused of indecently assaulting a British woman who was living rough in Gibraltar.

Ricky Rhoda QC, the Attorney General, closed the prosecution case at the Supreme Court putting to the jury that the issue of credibility is at the centre of the case and that they either believe the victim’s story or that of the accused.

“Either (she) took two trips here to tell the truth or she came deliberately to lie. It is as stark as that,” Mr Rhoda said.

The defence stood by their clients’ position that the alleged victim had made up the story and that what had actually happened was that she had been found naked in bed with a Czech man known as Pepe by John Paul Cruz who then slapped her and chased the man.

The allegations date back to September 13 2003 when one of the men, Steven Costa, is accused of attempting to rape the woman who cannot be named for legal reasons. He is separately accused of that same day assaulting the woman by kicking her about the head. Both defendants are jointly charged with indecent assault where it is alleged that a wine bottle was inserted in the woman’s vagina.

Stephen Bossino, defence lawyer for Costa, has highlighted the absence of scientific proof and the fact that his client had promptly provided police with blood samples, nail clippings and pubic hair.

He said there was no forensic evidence to support the prosecution case and said that the original charge of rape had had to be reduced to attempted when the alleged victim had said she could not remember if she had been penetrated. Nor could she remember seeing markings on the lower part of Costa’s body even though she had said he approached her with trousers lowered but no erection.

Elliot Phillips appearing for Cruz said his client had walked into the Lopez Ramp squat to find his girlfriend naked in bed with another man and had slapped her. He said there was no corroboration of the prosecution’s evidence and he questioned how she could have jumped out of the upper floor window which the jury had been taken to see earlier this week.

It was claimed by the Crown that a screwdriver blade was held to her head and that after the experience she was so terrified that she jumped from the upper floor window injuring herself and leading to both defendants facing an additional charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm. Mr Phillips however told the court that the woman had been shown to be inconsistent in her story.

The court sits at 10am.

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