Patrick Spiteri's European Arrest Warrant does not authorise detention, says lawyer

Following his arrest in the UK on the strength of various European Arrest Warrants and being extradited to Malta, Patrick Spiteri's lawyer has made a number of requests, asking that he be granted bail or placed under house arrest

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
13 September 2017, 1:00pm
'The state must ensure treatment, not punish him for refusing to be placed in solitary confinement', says Patrick Spiteri's lawyer, Stefano Filletti
'The state must ensure treatment, not punish him for refusing to be placed in solitary confinement', says Patrick Spiteri's lawyer, Stefano Filletti
A European Arrest Warrant does not legitimize a person’s continued detention once its subject has been transferred to the requesting country, Patrick Spiteri’s lawyer told a court this morning.

This was part of submissions made by lawyer Stefano Filletti, as he continued to argue for the release of his client, former lawyer Patrick Spiteri, from custody.

Spiteri was arrested in the UK in September 2015 on the strength of a number of European Arrest Warrants and was extradited to Malta last May to face charges of fraud and misappropriation amounting to around €7.4 million. He has made a number of requests over the past few months, asking that he be granted bail or placed under house arrest, none of which have been granted yet.

The requests were, in part, based on health concerns about the smoke filled environment in Corradino Correctional Facility, which exacerbates a rare and painful skin condition, which Spiteri suffers from. Earlier this month, a court ordered that he be transferred to Division 15, a section of the prison that was used to isolate sick prisoners, but Spiteri is refusing to comply, saying he is effectively being placed in solitary confinement.

Assistant Police Commissioner Ian Abdilla told magistrate Josette Demicoli this morning that the prison authorities had not received any complaints from Spiteri, but as the accused should be held in conditions that don’t harm his health, he should be transferred to division 15. Spiteri’s lawyer, Stefano Filletti, pointed out that the semi-basement area of prison had been closed after being condemned in an EU report, before being re-opened as a medical isolation wing.

“Basically it is a dormitory with a lot of beds and Patrick Spiteri in the middle.”

“It’s like something out of a Charles Dickens story. You can’t believe that in 2017, a person who is sick and in pain is placed in isolation in a semi basement prison wing. He has to choose between cigarettes or isolation. You don’t need to be a psychologist to understand that living completely alone, without even being able to eat in the refectory is harmful. Is this the best we can offer to a person who is still presumed innocent, in 2017?

“The state must ensure treatment, not punish him for refusing to be placed in solitary confinement,” said the lawyer. “‘But it’s not a punitive measure' - so put him in isolation as a punishment for refusing to be placed in isolation, not as a punishment? Or put him in Mount Carmel? This is crazy.” He insisted that the defence had provided guarantors for the accused’s compliance with court directions.

“The forensic ward is for people with mental health problems. And he still hasn’t been given access to his documents,” Filletti pointed out, adding that Court staff were refusing to make copies of the documents.

This was because of the sheer volume of documents and the sensitive information they contained, which the staff “didn’t want responsibility for,” he said. The courts were also going to charge Spiteri 35c per page and HSBC are charging him €30 every day for allowing him to store the documents in his re-possessed house. Spiteri had identified at least 4,000 pages that he needs for his defence.

Renting a garage would add to the financial burden on the accused, said his lawyer. “We have a problem. He always attended sittings and when he didn’t, he was sick. The doctor had said that the UK authorities had refused to release him into Maltese custody without a doctor signing off on him.”

Spiteri, who walks with the aid of a crutch, complained that the division is ill-equipped for his detention. He couldn’t even go to the library from division 15 as it is four times as far away as it is from division 4, he said this morning.

Filletti pointed out that a European Arrest Warrant simply authorised a country to arrest and repatriate a requested person. “It does not in of itself justify imprisonment or detention. The prosecution is arguing that when you have an EAW, you are automatically detained, but it does not explain why. These arguments are fallacious.”

The EAW procedure is a simplified version of extradition, it is not an arrest. So much so that the EAW is regulated by the Extradition Act, not the Criminal Code.”

The warrant was simply a tool used for the purpose of conducting a criminal prosecution.

 “The responsibility of the EAW ends the moment the subject appears before the local court of magistrates,” argued the lawyer.

When Spiteri left Malta he had not been under arrest or on bail, but had been arraigned by summons, Filletti said. When he returned, he was still not under arrest.

Spiteri had not been given the opportunity to explain why he had failed for a sitting, argued the lawyer and instead, an EAW was issued.

“The prosecution will probably ask ‘so why is he asking to be freed from arrest?’ but God forbid that it is up to the accused to determine his state.

“We believe that if the law is interpreted correctly, the prosecution will fail to justify the arrest. “

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