Malta's Opposition Leader Is Facing Allegations Of Domestic Violence In Acrimonious Separation Battle

The family court is being asked to decide whether he should be granted access to his children

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The wife of Malta's Opposition leader Adrian Delia is accusing him of domestic violence in marital separation proceedings that have become increasingly acrimonious.

Documents detailing the ongoing legal spat between Delia and his wife Nickie Vella De Fremeaux have been circulating on Whatsapp groups for days and have already become the subject of various online discussions. Former PN MEP candidate Jonathan Shaw and government consultant Robert Musumeci have both made public Facebook posts about the case.

The couple's separation after 17 years of marriage was announced two months ago and Delia has already spoken openly about it.

But on Christmas Eve, Delia filed an urgent court application asking the court to let him see his five children, since he was being prevented from doing so. He also asked for the mediation process to begin. However, Vella De Fremeaux replied by saying she would only allow access in a very limited way and under careful supervision, such as by her own parents.

She also went a step further. She made several allegations of domestic aggression in the household. It is not clear whether Vella De Fremeaux ever filed any reports of violence during their long marriage and whether there was any mention of this behaviour in her original filing for separation.

But in her very strongly-worded reply to Delia’s court application, Vella De Fremeaux claimed Delia regularly beat her in front of their children. The exact wording in Maltese is: “It-tfal kollha kienu regolarment jaraw lil missierhom isawwat u jerfa idejh fuq ommhom.”

Vella De Fremeaux, a family lawyer, also made a series of other allegations about specific incidents involving the couple’s five children. Lovin Malta has reached out to Delia for a reaction to these claims but a response has not yet been forthcoming.

Nicke Vella De Fremeaux interviewed weeks before the couple's separation was announced

The family court will now have to decide how to proceed on the case, which is playing out in the public domain, even though many argue that the family’s right to privacy outweighs public interest.

Opinion is divided, and while most of the Maltese press have reported about the separation, none have chosen to publish the court records that have been filed with the public registry.

Former Nationalist MEP candidate Jonathan Shaw last night broke the silence around the case.

He took to Facebook to write: “I have read the full statement sworn under oath and filed as a public document by the wife of the leader of the opposition. It’s shocking. Domestic and filial violence and abuse by a man towards his wife or children are totally deplorable."

“And in a country where a large segment of the population is up in arms when an animal is beaten… In a country where we proudly champion civil liberties… In a country where we champion equality… I’m flabbergasted that four days after such allegations hardly no one is publicly denouncing this,” he added.

“Domestic violence on women and children is a serious matter. More so, if you are in public office, as long as these allegations still stand, one has to resign. And if you don’t resign, then it’s up to the party to force a motion to make this happen. This goes beyond politics. This is about integrity, principles and morals. This is about championing women and children and sending a message to the whole nation that if you are a victim of domestic violence you can count on us and we will stand up for you. At least I will,” he said.

But he came under fire by government consultant Robert Musumeci who labelled Shaw’s post “shameful” and said the family should be left alone instead of having people pour salt on their wounds.

“Those liking your posts should pay attention to their own families,” said Musumeci, an admirer and neighbour of Delia, as well as a former PN mayor who is now a consultant to the Labour government.

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Blogger Manuel Delia - a former Nationalist Party campaigner who now campaigns against the government - has described the allegations involving the Opposition leader as "very disturbing".

"One has to consider where the public interest in politicians’ private lives steps out of the realm of curiosity and prurient interest and goes into need-to-know," he wrote on Boxing Day when he was the first to give hints of the motion filed by Delia.

In a recent interview on Xarabank, Adrian Delia opened up about the difficulties of being away from his family at Christmas. He said the experience helped him understand what other people go through in their own lives.

"Christmas is the story of someone who struggled a great deal. So maybe when it comes to the true meaning and spirit of Christmas, that's something I might begin to really understand for the first time," he said.

The timing of the separation is particularly dangerous for Delia as he faces his first electoral test in less than five months' time, with the upcoming European Parliament and local council elections. Delia became leader of the Nationalist Party after the party's humiliating defeat at the polls last year.

Editor’s Note: Why did we decide to publish?

For several days we have questioned whether to report about the acrimonious separation of the Opposition leader and his wife. We have come to the conclusion that since the Opposition leader is a major public figure on the island, the public has a right to be kept updated about any important developments in his separation that could impact his duties and political career. The fact that people, including political figures, are now discussing the case openly on social media without the story having been reported officially makes it difficult for citizens to distinguish between fact and rumour. It is the public's right to be informed and the media's duty to make sure this is done truthfully, sensitively and in good faith. We urge the public to be respectful in their online discussions about this case, and to keep in mind that the couple has five young children.

Do you think privacy outweighs public interest in such cases? If you want to send us any expert opinions or general letters about this or other cases, feel free to email: [email protected]

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Written By

Chris Peregin