A 41-year-old Italian man has been cleared of harassment, intimidation and computer hacking with regards to his ex-girlfriend.
Salvatore La Rocca was found not guilty by magistrate Joe Mifsud of charges which included misuse of computer equipment, defamation, threats, unlawful access to a computer, impairing the integrity of computer data and using another person’s password.
During the man’s arraignment, prosecuting police inspector Trevor Micallef had explained to the Court how La Rocca had embarked on a campaign of intimidation after the woman ended their love affair. The woman had previously been La Rocca’s employer but had fired him after their relationship turned sour.
But after being shown the door, the man had presented her with a bill of over €100,000, claiming that it was for his promotion of her business, although it was suggested in court that the claim was spurious. The woman, had eventually paid some €21,000 but says that he continued to chase her for money, as well as hacking her Facebook account.
But Magistrate Mifsud observed that it was strange that the woman had not taken steps to secure her online accounts even when the accused had allegedly hacked them. The court also noted that no investigations were carried out by the prosecution to establish and identify the IP addresses from where emails were sent and password change requests were made.
These investigations should have been carried out before the charges were pressed and not during the course of the court case, said the court
A mutual friend of the couple had testified that the accused had helped the woman out in advertising a number of concerts. The invoice for €100,000 had been requested by the woman’s father to quantify the work he had done for her, but the accused had “never asked for it to be paid.”
The couple had broken up because the woman had started to spread malicious rumours about the accused, he said, which had led to a meeting between La Rocca and the girl’s parents which the witness also attended.
La Rocca himself had taken the stand and denied all the allegations. As the woman had claimed that he would try to intimidate her by revving his motorcycle outside her shop, he countered, saying that he would drive through the main road in front of the shop, adding that a group of bikers also lived in the same road.
He likewise denied changing passwords, saying that the accounts in question had always been open and could be used by anyone. Asked why he had rented a property near the woman, he said it was to be close to his workplace.
Magistrate Joe Mifsud, deciding the case, said that the majority of testimony and evidence presented were more relevant to a civil case than a criminal one.
Criminal proceedings should never be used to air grievances of a purely civil nature between the parties, said the court.
The case should never have even come before his court, said the magistrate, as the disagreement between the parties were civil in nature, caused by the breakdown of their relationship and which could “with some good sense, been easily resolved.”
The version of events given by the couple’s mutual friend was not contradicted by the alleged victim and he had not even been cross-examined, observed the magistrate.
In addition, the court said it found it hard to reconcile the charge of harassment with the fact that the woman had continued to respond to his emails.
On the charge of threatening behavior by the accused, which consisted of him filing a number of police reports about her, the court said that these were not unjust threats which could create some form of danger to her. Additionally, no evidence showing that the reports had been made was presented to the court.
With regards to computer misuse, the court said that no evidence had been collected to show the phone numbers or IP addresses from which the messages had originated.
The only evidence left was the declaration of the alleged victim, which the court could not rely on alone for the finding of guilt, Mifsud said.
In closing, the court invited the parties to sit down together with their lawyers and try and solve the civil disputes between them with “some good sense,” in order to close what it called “this chapter in their relationship.”
Inspector Trevor Micallef prosecuted. Lawyer Giannella Demarco was defence counsel. Lawyer Maxilene Pace appeared for the woman.