Shoplifter's prison sentence reduced to probation on appeal

Woman prosecuted for a string of thefts from two clothing shops has prison sentence converted to probation

A shoplifter has been given a last chance by the Court of Criminal Appeal, with her 13-month prison sentence for stealing clothes off the shelves at two retail stores, being converted to probation.

Daniela Spiteri, 38, had been prosecuted for a string of thefts from two clothing shops at St Julian’s and Valletta in August and October 2014 as well as in February 2015.

Shop staff had noticed that items of clothing hanging on the racks were going missing, with their magnetic alarm tags being discarded on the floor or discovered stuffed inside the pockets of other clothes on display.

Spiteri was caught after two salesgirls at one of the St Julian’s stores she targeted had kept watch using the shop’s CCTV cameras and allegedly spotted the woman lift items from their hangars and remove the alarm tags.

On one occasion, one of the shop assistants had followed the suspect outside, taking note of her car number plate before she drove off.

Another worker at a Valletta clothes store had recalled making eye contact with a female customer who appeared to be dismantling the alarm tags and throwing items of clothing into her bag. The customer escaped while the employee had rushed off to inform her supervisor.

Spiteri had been prosecuted and found guilty in 2015, being jailed for 13 months for theft, relapsing and breaching a probation order. She subsequently filed an appeal.

The Court of Criminal Appeal, presided over by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, confirmed the woman’s conviction for one of the thefts from the Valletta store, but overturned her other convictions, citing insufficient evidence.

The judge noted that In the CCTV footage exhibited, there was nothing suspicious about the woman’s movements as she looked at items in the shop and then walked out.

The court noted that the footage showing the alleged theft had not been produced, neither had the shop assistants from the St Julian’s shop been called to testify, nor had she been positively identified by the St. Julian’s shop manager in court.

In its considerations on punishment, the Court observed that although the accused had frittered away several opportunities to reform in the past, she had since tackled the drug problem which had prompted her to steal in the first place and was determined to reform herself.

Caritas officials and a probation officer told the court that the woman was determined to undergo drug rehabilitation and had the support of her family. This led the Court to give the woman her final opportunity to avoid a custodial sentence, placing her under a 3-year probation order.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Amadeus Cachia assisted the appellant.

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