Magistrate slams unnecessary delays as shooting victim is cleared of grievous bodily harm

The incident took place in 2005, with criminal proceedings against the victim requiring a staggering 53 sittings before a final decision was handed down

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
29 September 2017, 2:59pm
Criminal proceedings had been dragging on for ten years, noted the court, decrying the fact that in a staggering 53 sittings, nothing had happened
Criminal proceedings had been dragging on for ten years, noted the court, decrying the fact that in a staggering 53 sittings, nothing had happened
A man has been cleared of grievously injuring his next-door neighbour in a shooting over a fender bender in Zebbug, Gozo, in 2005 after a court ruled that the man had been acting in self-defence.

Franky Cini, 24 at the time, narrowly escaped death, after being shot twice in the abdomen by Joseph Portelli on the morning of 25 July 2005. Both men were charged separately over the incident.

Cini had originally been accused of attempted homicide and illegal possession of a firearm, which were later downgraded to grievous bodily harm and causing criminal damage to Portelli’s car.

The court heard how Cini, a vegetable hawker, had been driving his truck in Zebbug, when it scraped the door of a parked car belonging to Joseph Portelli’s daughter.

The girl called up her father, who went to the scene of the accident and a heated argument ensued between the two men, who are alleged to have been involved in several ongoing disputes.

Cini was shot in the abdomen and was in danger of dying, whilst Portelli suffered stab wounds, which experts concluded were probably inflicted by a screwdriver.

Magistrate Joe Mifsud, presiding the Court of Magistrates in Gozo criticised the manner which criminal proceedings against Cini had been conducted. They had been dragging on for ten years, noted the court, decrying the fact that in a staggering 53 sittings, nothing had happened. The case against Cini should not have been held in tandem with the related case against Portelli, a practise that had been adopted by the Gozo courts to minimize lawyers' travel requirements, the magistrate opined, as this had led to unnecessary complication and delays.

Although experts had likened Portelli’s injuries to stab wounds from a screwdriver, the court said it had doubts as to whether this had actually been used in the fight. It rejected the claim that Cini had approached Portelli from behind and stabbed him with the screwdriver, saying that the slight injuries Portelli suffered would make more sense if the two men had grappled on the ground, as a witness had also described.

The court also noted that the holster for the pistol used to shoot Cini had been found in Portelli’s own car, concluding that Portelli had brought the weapon, not Cini.

“The Court can never conclude, beyond reasonable doubt, that the accused had the specific intent of grievously injuring Joseph Portelli. There is no evidence of this in the acts of the case,” said the magistrate.

“In this case, the prosecution not only failed to prove the connection between the criminal act of grievous bodily harm, but more so, it failed to prove the intentional element...and this because there is nothing to indicate the existence of the specific intent necessary for grievous bodily harm. The only intention that could be deduced from the evidence as a whole is that the accused was defending himself.”

Magistrate Mifsud declared Cini to be innocent of the charge of grievous bodily harm, instead finding him guilty only of involuntary damage, for which he was fined €500. Criminal proceedings against Portelli are ongoing.

Superintendent Antonello Grech and inspector Chris Pullicino prosecuted.

Laywer Julia Scerri Ferrante was defence counsel.

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