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Lawyer set to hold court responsible for disbarred lawyer’s deteriorating condition

Court-appointed doctor says Patrick Spiteri cannot be held in prison because of the overcrowding, stress and cigarettes which exacerbate a rare skin condition he suffers from

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
29 August 2017, 4:00pm
Lawyer insists Patrick Spiteri should be granted house arrest
Lawyer insists Patrick Spiteri should be granted house arrest
The lawyer defending disbarred lawyer Patrick Spiteri has placed the responsibility for his client's deteriorating health squarely on the court's shoulders.

In a sitting this morning, Magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona heard a court-appointed doctor who visited Spiteri in prison, testify that Spiteri's condition was worsening due to his incarceration and recommend that he be held at home.

Spiteri was extradited to Malta from the UK in May to answer a number of criminal charges of fraud and misappropriation thought to total some €7.4 million. The cases are spread amongst three different magistrates, who all must approve his bail requests before he is released.

This morning a court-appointed consultant physician reported that Spiteri could not be held in prison because of the overcrowding, stress and cigarettes which exacerbate a rare skin condition called Behchet's syndrome, which he had been diagnosed as suffering from.

Defence lawyer Stefano Filletti argued that his client's continued detention was a disproportionate measure because Spiteri was never shown to be on the run. “He didn't return for his sittings but we have seen today that the UK doctors had advised against his return to Malta due to his condition. His absence was not the result of an escape but medical advice that is a justified legal reason for his absence.”

The picture painted by the prosecution, that Spiteri had been a difficult person to trace and return to Malta was not accurate, said the lawyer.

“This means he is not the untrustwothy person depicted by the prosecution. He is a man who was sick and being treated... So much so, that the UK authorities had only released him for travel after a Maltese doctor sent to accompany him to Malta took personal responsibility for the man's health during his transit to Malta.”

Spiteri also has no access to his documents, his lawyer said, echoing a submission made last week in one of his other cases. “How can you expect him to prepare his defence if he is being denied access to his documents?”

“Is it possible that we cannot find a formula which allows him to be held at a private residence with all the safeguards needed and which balances his right to health, while ensuring that he attends court sittings?”

The court had also been shown that his stay in prison was harming his health, submitted Filletti, reminding the court that stress, overcrowding and smoking all worsen his medical condition. “The doctor's medical recommendation, not a social suggestion, is that he is held at a private residence.” Earlier this month, Spiteri's elderly parents offered a different court to accommodate him at their home if granted bail.

The lawyer described Spiteri's continued incarceration as “almost inhuman and degrading treatment.” “Painful spasms, nausea, ulcers, open wounds. These all bring pain with them. In the circumstances he should not be denied bail.”

“From now on, with all due respect, the health of this man is the responsibility of whoever is making this decision. The doctor has spoken and said that he should not be held in prison.”

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