Ambushed partygoer who nearly killed assailant, cleared of charges on self defence grounds

Shaun Demicoli, who beat and nearly killed a drunk man who ambushed him outside a party has been acquitted of grievous bodily harm 

A man who beat and nearly killed a drunk man who ambushed him outside a party has been acquitted of grievous bodily harm on the grounds of self-defence.

Shaun Demicoli was accused of grievously injuring Riadh Mrad from Tunisia and placing his life in manifest jeopardy by beating Mrad up severely at a private carnival party in Birzebbugia in 2014

Mrad claimed to have been punched in the chest and then in the face, whilst he was on the floor.

Organisers told the court that Mrad, who was not a guest at the party but had turned up anyway, somewhat drunk. He was shown the door, telling one woman that he would “inxufek.” He had also said something to Demicoli’s partner and an argument broke out. Mrad became aggressive and pushed one woman.

One of the guests at the party testified that while he was having a drink, three foreigners had entered the venue and one of them had tried to chat up Demicoli’s partner. As it appeared that an argument was going to erupt, an Arab man who was possibly drunk, had approached the group and grabbed Demicoli by the neck and pulled him away. The Arab man, later identified as Mrad, had resisted attempts to throw him out of the venue, said the witness, but was eventually ejected from the building.

Later that evening, as Demicoli was trying to leave the building, he had found Mrad waiting for him in the doorway. Mrad threw a punch and was then pushed to the ground by Demicoli. Mrad started to shout “inxufek, inxufek” whilst he was pinned to the ground by Demicoli. Only one punch was seen to have been given by Demicoli, to the man’s shoulder, the witness said.

Inspector Carol Fabri had testified to having reached the conclusion that Demicoli had injured Mrad from CCTV footage. Mrad had spent days in intensive care and had only been spoken to by the police after several months, by which time he could not recall what had happened.

Mrad was in danger of dying at a point and as a result, Demicoli had originally been also charged with attempted murder, although the AG did not specify this offence in his note of renvoi.

But the accused had also testified, telling the court that he had pushed the Tunisian after the latter had grabbed him by the neck from behind. The organisers of the party had grabbed the assailant and taken him outside, he said, adding that the man could be heard causing a loud disturbance even from the stairwell.

When he had come to leave, he said, he had opened the door and was immediately punched in the face by the Tunisian. “At that point, when I got punched, I blanked out. I thought ‘ I’ve been surrounded.’” He claimed to have started to punch Mrad to defend himself, his wife and his daughter. A friend of his had pulled him away, asked him if he was ok and then walked him to his car. Demicoli was spoken to by the police some three days later.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit, presiding, observed that the CCTV footage exhibited was “not clear at all” and so relied on the rest of the evidence.

It noted that Mrad was drunk and belligerent and had waited for the accused outside, after being thrown out of the party. It also noted that although Mrad had testified, he was unable to remember what had happened and had not denied any of the statements made about him.

After carrying out an in-depth analysis of the evidence, the court said it understood the dynamics of the incident and was of the opinion that in this case there was provocation on the part of the victim and a reaction of legitimate self-defence on the part of the accused. It emerged that the accused had gone beyond the limits of legitimate self-defence and had almost killed Mrad, who was drunk and less capable of resisting.

The man’s injuries showed that the reaction had not been proportionate to the provocation, as the accused had continued to punch Mrad as he lay on the ground. “In truth, the victim was lucky to have been seen on the ground in the street as had this not happened, the probability is that he would be dead.”

But a proviso to the law states that excess of self-defence is excusable if committed due to fear or fright, noted the court, saying that this was the case here.

For this reason, it acquitted the accused of all charges.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Jason Grima were defence counsel.

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