Pickpocketing epidemic ‘is a business’, court told as pair jailed

A pair of Bulgarian pickpockets have been jailed for stealing from an elderly Maltese woman in Sliema yesterday

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
3 October 2017, 2:30pm
'I think we need to transmit the message that Malta is a safe country,' said the inspector.
'I think we need to transmit the message that Malta is a safe country,' said the inspector.
A pair of Bulgarian pickpockets have been jailed for stealing €60 from an elderly woman, after a police inspector described the wave of similar thefts were harming the public’s peace of mind.

A miserable looking Mariana Petrova and Nadezhda Ivanova, aged 23 and 36 respectively, appeared in the dock before Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, accused of robbing the Maltese woman in Sliema yesterday.

Inspector Mark Mercieca told the court that the pair had been spotted by an undercover police officer, one of many dispatched to the pickpocketing hotspots in an effort to quell the rash of similar crimes, in the act of removing the cash from the woman’s handbag.

There are many more like them, said the inspector, adding that his investigation had revealed that the pair had visited Malta three times since June. “It is a business,” he said.

The women pleaded guilty to simple theft. Defence lawyer Victor Bugeja pointed out that the stolen cash had been recovered and that this was their first brush with the law.

“It is not just to make a show of these people in the hope of deterring others,” he said. “Are you going to send them to prison over €60?”

Bugeja recommended that the women be sent back to Bulgaria.

But Inspector Mercieca was adamant that the message that such crimes would not be tolerated had to be sent.

"The prosecution is insisting on imprisonment. The police in Sliema are facing a huge influx of this type of crime. Both women claimed that they were visiting Malta for the first time, but from my investigations it transpired that these persons visited Malta three times since June.”

“I think we need to transmit the message that Malta is a safe country,” said the inspector.

Bugeja said his clients were denying that they came to Malta before. “They were never asked how many times they were in Malta. This is the first occasion where my clients were charged with a crime. They are being accused of stealing €60 from a 3rd party. When they were caught, the money was returned to the aggrieved party, they fully cooperated and admitted and are pleaded guilty at an early stage. “


In the circumstances, he said, the defendants did not merit a jail term.

“If the court wishes to pass on a message to other people that in Malta we mean business, the court can always deport them to Bulgaria, but imprisonment for such a petty offence is quite excessive.”

Before sentencing the accused, the court summarized the case, noting that the accused had been caught pickpocketing and after being caught by the police, they had returned the stolen cash. It noted further that although the amount stolen was only €60, “the gravity of the offence is due to the fear that such persons may cause to elderly people, who had to be wary of every person around them when out in public.”

Describing the offence as “very serious,” the court sentenced Petrova and Ivanova to two months imprisonment.

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