Court sends relapser to jail

A court sent a relapser to prison after he was accused of theft, to which he pleaded guilty.

Alexander Cardona was accused on Wednesday of aggravated theft from Lija on July 11, when he stole a notebook computer and jewellery. He was also accused of receiving stolen goods and of causing voluntary damage to the premises where Cardona stole from.

Another charge was that of breaching bail conditions in another case and of committing a crime while he was out on a conditional discharge during the hearing of two separate cases. The prosecution asked the court to revoke Cardona’s bail and order him to pay the guarantee imposed in the two cases.

Cardona admitted to the charges and Magistrate Aaron Bugeja warned him that the guilty plea could result in a prison sentence. Cardona then confirmed his guilty plea.

The court then examined the prosecution’s arguments that Cardona was given ample opportunity by the courts on a number of other occasions, when he was given suspended sentences and probation orders. The prosecution also highlighted the fact that Cardona had entered other people’s property and stole personal possessions. He also breached bail conditions, but on the other hand assisted the police in their investigations and filed a guilty plea at the first sitting of the case. The accused is a drug addict and was trying his utmost to give up his dependency.

The defence argued that Cardona has a serious financial problem as a result of his drug addiction. He committed the theft because he was pressed to make payments. The stolen items, apart from the notebook and laptop, were returned to the owners.

Magistrate Bugeja held that it was true that the accused had filed a guilty plea early and that he had cooperated with the police by giving a detailed statement to them and returning the stolen items. These factors were to be considered favourably but the court held it could not ignore the fact that Cardona is a multiple relapser going back to 1989. It was clear that the accused did not learn his lesson and therefore he should face the consequences.

Magistrate Bugeja said the fact that the accused has financial problems and did not know how to finance his drug habit was not an argument that should help him. He could not justify theft because of financial difficulties. There are honest ways how to earn money, as long as one wants to work and earn a living. Drug addiction is not a defence and does not justify what he did. If Cardona wanted to get over his drug addiction he should do a rehabilitation programme.

The court further held that it should not only take into account the accused’s situation but also that of the victims of the theft. The victims, who were blameless, discovered that their home was entered into and items were stolen. They would have worked hard to purchase these items. The court said it understood that the victims would have suffered a trauma when they opened their front door to discover that someone had broken in and stolen from them. 

As for the charge of committing a crime while on bail, this is a serious offence with a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. The breach was not insignificant and therefore warranted a prison sentence. Due to Cardona’s financial problems, the court would not order the confiscation of the guarantees he placed for his bail. Therefore, the small amount of money deposited would remain in court.

The court held it should not only take into account the accused’s situation but also that of the victims of the theft. The victims would have worked hard to purchase the stolen items, and would have suffered a trauma when they opened their front door to discover that someone had broken in

Magistrate Bugeja sent Cardona down for 18 months for the theft and the accused was further condemned to four months’ imprisonment for committing a crime while on bail and revoked his bail in the other cases. With regard to committing a crime when on a conditional discharge Cardona was given another two months and a further 14 months, bringing the total prison sentence for Cardona to 38 months.

Malcolm Mifsud, Partner, Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates

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