Teenager on bail after being charged with trying to run over Transport Malta officers

Lawyer of teenager who faces charges for trying to harm two public officers accuses police of trampling over client’s rights

A young man from Birkirkara has been released on bail after being charged with attempted bodily harm on two public officers and a number of driving offences, in a sitting where his lawyers accused the police inspector of serious rights breaches.

Aden Christian Fenech, 19, was arrested this morning over an incident where he allegedly drove at two Transport Malta employees almost a month ago. He was arraigned before magistrate Josette Demicoli on charges of attempted grievous bodily harm against two public officers, resisting them, dangerous and reckless driving, contravening a no entry sign, changing his car registration number, breaching a conditional discharge and relapsing.

His lawyers, Ishmael Psaila and Shaun Zammit, furiously contested the validity of the arrest, telling the magistrate that the police refused to disclose the charges against the accused and took statements without the assistance of his lawyer.

“I have never seen an arraignment like this,” Psaila, outraged, told the court. “Yesterday I was told by the police that my client wanted to speak to me. I asked for disclosure. The only thing I was told was that my client drove onto some Transport Malta employees.

“Seconds ago, I learned that he released two statements. I have a list of phone calls I made to the inspector asking about the charges but the inspector refused to give me a copy because he needed to ask his superiors and was still investigating.

“At 8:30-31am I was called by my client from the lock-up.

“Two minutes ago, outside the courtroom, I learned that at 12:15pm today a statement was taken in the presence of the inspector and others.”

The rights of the accused were trampled upon, said the lawyer angrily.

In addition, the prosecution had failed to provide disclosure of the incriminating evidence to the accused’s lawyers, he said. This was in breach of his rights under the criminal code and in violation of the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, Psaila argued.

Inspector Andrew Agius took the stand. The magistrate asked him to justify the man’s arrest.

He said there was an attempt at causing grievous bodily harm on two officials. “The crime is punishable by prison and the police have the discretion to hold him under arrest,” said the inspector. The incident allegedly took place on 3rd September, but the man’s car was only stopped yesterday after being spotted by one of the victims. He was arrested at the Hamrun police station after being identified by one of the alleged victims.

Psaila said he expected the prosecuting official to give more by way of explanation, as Fenech’s arrest took place over a month after the fact. “I would like the inspector to shed more light on the statements and the procedure adopted.

Can you tell me who was present during the statement?” “Myself and a police constable,” replied the officer.

“I have been asking you for the charges since yesterday …you gave him a letter of rights and didn’t tell him that he could have a lawyer,” said Psaila, voice rising. “My client wanted to call me from the police depot and nobody informed me!”

The lawyer was not given disclosure because there was the possibility that he changes his lawyer, said the inspector.

At this point, the Court ordered a ban on reporting part of the proceedings in which senior police officers were mentioned after this was requested by the defence lawyer.

The court then retired to chambers to examine the issue.

Returning after nearly an hour, the magistrate ruled that the man’s arrest was legal.

The defence then declared that it would be contesting the validity of the statement released by the accused this afternoon.

The court moved on to ask the accused whether he pleaded guilty or not guilty.

He pleaded not guilty and requested bail.

The prosecution said its only objection was that there were witnesses yet to testify.

The defence submitted that although the accused had some past brushes with the law he was now living a law-abiding life and was in stable employment. Over a month had passed since the incident, pointed out Psaila, “if there was to have been some form of approach this would have happened by now.”

The court upheld the bail request.

Magistrate Demicoli released the man from arrest, ordering him not to commit any further offences, securing it with a personal guarantee of €5,000. A protection order was issued in favour of the two individuals allegedly assaulted. The court warned Fenech that a breach of his bail conditions would result in his re-arrest and confiscation of his guarantee. Further molestation of the two alleged victims carried with it a fine of €7,000 and up to two years in prison under the protection order, it said.