Sickly man who used drugs for 32 years has prison sentence confirmed on appeal

A 47-year-old man who had been using drugs since the age of 15, has his prison sentence for theft confirmed on appeal

The court of appeal has confirmed a prison sentence for theft handed down to a man with a longtime drug addiction
The court of appeal has confirmed a prison sentence for theft handed down to a man with a longtime drug addiction

The Court of Criminal Appeal has confirmed a long-term drug user’s prison sentence for theft but recommended that he be treated in hospital, due to his fragile health.

Presiding the court of Criminal Appeal, Madame Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera heard how 47-year-old Shone Agius from Birkirkara had been using drugs since the age of 15 and had been sentenced several times for stealing to sustain his habit.

On this occasion, Agius had been found guilty of burglary from a residence in St Julian’s in 2013. He was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison. Agius filed an appeal, arguing that his punishment was too harsh. 

In a brief judgment, Madame Justice Scerri Herrera confirmed his sentence, but also recommended that due to his numerous health conditions, a result of his 32 years of drug abuse, be transferred to hospital for treatment.

This transfer would happen if the Prisons Director indicated that his health was deteriorating, due to the possibility of Agius contracting an infection whilst in prison - as had already happened before.

He had been close to death on one occasion, after one of his wounds became infected whilst he was in prison, noted the court.

Agius suffered from blocked veins, thrombosis, heart problems and suppurating wounds that would not heal and which required daily cleaning.

Over the years, Agius completed several drug rehabilitation programs, some whilst in prison, and had been in contact with Caritas.

Agius’ probation officer had compiled a report on the man, noting that he had started using cannabis at age 15 and had ended up dependent on heroin. As a result of his habit, he had lost his money, his family and his health.

The probation officer said the man would take drugs to forget his problems and found it impossible to live without drugs. A loner, Agius had few friends and on occasion, solitude itself would push him to abuse substances.

He was on methadone at the time, but despite the high dose, no progress was being registered in his case due to a lack of motivation.

Recently Agius had shown renewed interest in entering a residential program, said the probation officer, but despite his being given a lot of help in the past, had persisted with his drug abuse.

Agius had a stable family life, despite the drug abuse. His ill-health meant that he could not work and financed his drug habit with money he received from his parents and social welfare assistance.

After hearing the submissions of both parties, the judge ruled the man’s conviction to be “safe and satisfactory”, and confirmed his punishment. She, however, recommended that if the Director of Prisons were to notice any deterioration in his health, he was to transfer him to hospital.