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Alleged accomplice in woman's attempted burning loses bail appeal

The Court of Criminal Appeal has once again denied bail to Gavin Spagnol, who is accused of complicity in an attempt at burning a woman alive in her car

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
10 August 2017, 1:06pm
The Court of Criminal Appeal has once again denied bail to Gavin Spagnol, who is accused of complicity in an attempt at burning a woman alive in her car
The Court of Criminal Appeal has once again denied bail to Gavin Spagnol, who is accused of complicity in an attempt at burning a woman alive in her car
The Criminal Court has once again denied bail to Gavin Spagnol, who is accused of complicity in an attempt at burning a woman alive in her car.

Spagnol was arraigned in court together with Alvin Pullicino on 14 July and charged with complicity in the  attempted murder of Pullicino's ex-partner's sister.

In giving her testimony, the would-be victim told the court last month how she had been doused in petrol as she sat in her car and had escaped immolation only because Pullicino's cigarette lighter had malfunctioned.

Both Pullicino and Spagnol were remanded in custody after their arraignment. A subsequent request for bail was also denied by magistrate Joe Mifsud.

Spagnol's lawyer Franco Debono filed an appeal against the last denial of bail, telling judge Edwina Grima that his client's participation in the events had been “marginal.” A cousin of the principal accused, “he was extraneous to the circumstances,” the lawyer submitted, “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The man had a “spotless” criminal record, the lawyer argued, adding that the principal witnesses had already testified.

But prosecuting lawyer Nadia Attard from the Office of the Attorney General pointed out that the 10-year-old child who had been sitting in the car as his mother was being doused with fuel had not yet testified. There was a pending court application requesting that the heavily traumatised boy be accompanied by a child psychologist when he does testify.

“I have a man who is presumed innocent,” Debono continued, “whose principal witnesses have testified...with all due respect, as defence counsel I can't force a witness to be heard but I can't keep someone under arrest because someone hasn't been heard yet either.”

In a substantial amount of attempted homicide cases, the homicide charge is dropped after the compilation of evidence, the lawyer argued.

“It is true that he is charged with complicity, but it is complicity in an attempted murder,” Attard shot back. She pointed out that Alvin Pullicino's ex-partner was yet to testify and that the accused lived in the same neighbourhood as the intended victim.

This was not an isolated incident, said the lawyer, citing a previous argument in which Spagnol had punched the victim, knocking her to the ground. This clearly showed that the accused was not extraneous to the disagreement and there were grounds to fear that the violence would repeat itself if he was released, she said.

Debono retorted that if bail was going to be refused because of proximity, “nobody will get bail because Malta is a small island. Everywhere is close.”

“Technically, all witnesses must testify upon arraignment...the spirit of the law is to do this. Why hadn't they been heard in the second sitting? This is a great irony. You don't bring witnesses and then object to bail because you didn't bring the witnesses...I have no control over this. The next sitting is on 6 September, why must I wait another month because this witness has not testified?”

“It becomes a question of luck whether witnesses are heard that you stay in prison. We are talking about a minor and the other witness who was not present.”

Debono's reference to the “spirit of the law” notwithstanding, the law of criminal procedure had been amended to remove the requirement of bringing all prosecution witnesses upon arraignment in order to avoid the possibility of forum shopping. After arraignment, criminal cases are now assigned to magistrates by lot.

In her decree rejecting the request, judge Edwina Grima observed that the attempted murder proceedings were still at an early stage and that several civilian witnesses had not yet testified, primarily, the boy.

“Therefore it would be counterproductive to grant the applicant bail, more so because it appears that resides in the same locality as this witness and the alleged victims.”

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...