No bail for man caught with drugs as lawyers criticise charges 'lottery'

A man arrested with sachets of what police suspect is cocaine, heroin and crack has been denied bail

A man arrested with sachets of what police suspect is cocaine, heroin and crack in his car has been denied bail, with his lawyers arguing that if he had been stopped 100m further down the road, he could have been tried by a drugs court.

Douglas Briffa was arrested on 20 September by a Drug Squad patrol in Bormla. Officers said they had noted a car whose driver was acting suspiciously and had stopped it. Behind the wheel of that car, they had found Briffa, with his girlfriend on the passenger seat.

16 sachets of suspected cocaine, crack and heroin were found inside the vehicle. Nothing was found inside his home, Inspectors Anthony Scerri and Martin Mallia told Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras this morning. His girlfriend was also arrested and later released on police bail, the court was told.

Briffa’s lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia entered a plea of not guilty on the man’s behalf and requested bail.

Debono asked Inspector Scerri about the charge of being in possession of the drugs within 100m of a place frequented by youths, with the witness replying that the man had been arrested in between two playing areas.

It emerged that the police had ordered the man to stop at the place in question and Debono lost no time in arguing that the aggravation of the charge “was not a random thing, therefore” and asked the court to take into consideration the fact that the accused could otherwise benefit from the lower sentencing regimes of a drug court. It would otherwise become "a lottery" argued the lawyer.

Bail was objected to by the prosecution on the grounds that Briffa was “certainly not trustworthy” – he had been charged with aggravated and not simple possession of drugs, he had breached bail, had a colourful criminal record and several previous convictions, said the inspectors. There were also third parties yet to testify, they said.

The court did not grant bail, declaring that it was not satisfied that he could offer the necessary guarantees, as well as the risk of him tampering with evidence.    

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