Sicilian thief's repatriation order overturned, sentence reduced on appeal

The court of Criminal Appeal has revoked a repatriation order and reduced a prison sentence previously handed to a Sicilian man who admitted to having committed over a dozen thefts in the space of a fortnight

Matthew Agius
6 September 2017, 4:00pm
Carmelo Ciranna, 41, admitted to having carried out 15 separate thefts between 25 December 2016 and 8 January 2017, targeting homes in Marsascala, ┼╗abbar and Birkirkara. Jewellery, watches, electronics, ornaments and cash, thought to be worth some €100,000 in total were stolen in the thefts. A petrol station in Qormi was also robbed of its stock of car batteries, by the Sicilian, during his crime spree. Ciranna had also been charged with causing voluntary damage to property in relation to each of the incidents. Given the value of the items stolen, had he not pleaded guilty to the charges, Cirana would have faced a trial by jury.

In view of his admission, last March a court of Magistrates jailed the Sicilian for 7 years and ordered that he be immediately repatriated after serving his sentence.

But Ciranna's lawyer, Arthur Azzopardi, had filed an appeal, arguing amongst other things, that the charge of voluntary damage should not have been a separate charge, meaning that he was being punished twice for the same offence and this in the same proceedings. He also insisted that the charge of handling stolen goods was alternative to that of theft and if guilt was found in one, the other charge could not subsist. The Sicilian also decried the punishment he received, saying that the court of magistrates had failed to take into account the degree of his involvement, his early admission and cooperation with the police, the reformative aspect of punishment and whether or not he had made good for the damage caused.

The Sicilian’s lawyer observed that the lower court, which had noted Ciranna’s “colourful and voluminous” criminal record and his time spent behind bars, should have considered the fact that its choice of punishment “would probably not address the reformative aspect of our judicial system.” The defence said its view was strengthened by a report from Ciranna’s probation officer, who recommended that the appellant needed a controlled, drug-free environment to overcome the addiction which had spurred the man’s crimes. Given the rampant drug abuse in Corradino Correctional Facility, this was not a “controlled environment,” he argued.

But the defence’s strongest objection was to the repatriation order that would follow after Ciranna served his sentence. Azzopardi argued that the order breached the EU Citizens' Rights Directive, now part of Maltese law, which provides that “an expulsion decision may not be taken against Union citizens, except if the decision is based on imperative grounds of public security... if they have resided in the host Member State for the previous ten years.”

In his judgment, amending the punishment, Judge Antonio Mizzi said the court “was in perfect agreement with the arguments raised by the appellant.”

The accused had also spent the past 18 years in Malta, was married to a Maltese citizen and had three children, observed the court, and therefore he could not be expelled from the country.

Some of the charges clearly overlapped and others were alternative to one another, said the judge, explaining that this oversight led the Criminal Court to have doubts as to the punishment inflicted.

For this reason, Ciranna’s conviction was confirmed, but his punishment was reduced from 7 years to 5 years imprisonment, with the court also revoking the repatriation order.

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