Sentence for fatal crane collapse halved on appeal after court finds contributory negligence

A two-year sentence for a man convicted of negligently causing the death of a motorist was halved on appeal after the judge observed that there was an element of contributory negligence on the part of the deceased 

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
31 July 2017, 2:38pm
The crane killed Sammy Spiteri who was in the car when the crane collapsed over it
The crane killed Sammy Spiteri who was in the car when the crane collapsed over it
A crane owner who had been jailed for two years last July after his crane crushed a motorist has had his sentenced halved now that an appeals court has ruled there was contributory negligence on the part of the deceased.

Baskal Saliba, 54, had been jailed for two years for negligently causing the death of Sammy Spiteri, whose car had crashed into the structure in Victoria, Gozo on 7 October 2007.



The high speed impact occurred at around 4:40am on 6 October 2007. Spiteri's car hit the crane with such force that crane was knocked off balance and collapsed, the counterweight falling directly on Spiteri vehicle, crushing it. Spiteri, whose toxicological report showed him to have been well over the drink-drive limit and have taken ecstasy, died after debris lacerated his lung.



Magistrate Joe Mifsud noted that the accused lacked a permit to set up the crane in that road and that this showed a lack of good judgement on the part of the accused, also noting that his failure to cooperate with the law showed that the man felt he was above the law.



A court-appointed engineer had lambasted Saliba's “great and manifest” negligence and stressed the importance of ensuring safety at the workplace.

In his decision Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri, presiding the Court of Criminal Appeal, dismissed suggestions that the court of magistrates had not taken all the evidence into consideration or had failed to substantiate its conclusions. It was clear that the accident had occurred because of the way Saliba had erected the crane, without a permit and with one of its outriggers jutting out onto the road and the appellant was “absolutely incorrect to argue that the lack of permission was not a determining factor.”

However, the judge observed that there was an element of contributory negligence on the part of the deceased that had to be taken into consideration when awarding punishment. For this reason, whilst not disturbing the court's finding of guilt, it partially upheld the appeal and reformed the sentence to one year in prison.

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