Architects guilty of causing death of Miriam Pace get community service

BREAKING | Two men found guilty of causing the death of Miriam Pace convicted with 800 hours of community work by Magistrate Joe Mifsud 

Miriam Pace was found under the rubble on 2 March
Miriam Pace was found under the rubble on 2 March

A court has declared two architects guilty of causing the death of Miriam Pace, who died in the rubble of her home, which collapsed following works on a construction site next door, saying they had “betrayed their oath of appointment as architects.”

54-year-old Pace, a mother of two, was killed in the collapse on 2 March 2020 in Santa Venera.

37-year-old architect Roderick Camilleri of Rabat, Perit Anthony Mangion of Gżira, 73, - were charged with negligently causing Pace’s death in 2020.

Camilleri and Mangion were also charged with making a false declaration to the authorities. Perit Mangion was accused of being absent from a site where dangerous works were being carried out.

In his 98-page judgment on the case, Magistrate Joe Mifsud denied requests for the release of the building site, the site of Pace’s home as well as the equipment and machines involved, explaining that this would be required in the trial by jury of the other two men involved in the collapse.

The court laid out its reasoning in the judgment, which contained an overview of all the testimony – some 40 pages.

The magistrate stated that “the fact that an out of court settlement was reached could never affect this judgment. We aren’t in the civil law sphere. In Criminal law, you are either guilty or not.”

There was no contributory negligence on the part of the victim, who was at home, said the court, adding that it lacked the competence to examine alleged negligence on the part of the State in this case.

Public opinion was important, said the court, pointing out however that the courts were not there to satisfy public opinion. In this case, there was an attempt to mobilise public opinion at a sensitive juncture when the case was not yet over, said the magistrate.

The accused contributed to Pace’s death, and in so doing, they had betrayed their oath of appointment as Architects, said the court.

The court said the first two charges  - of negligently causing Pace’s death and damage to property were confirmed. Camilleri alone was found guilty of making a false declaration to the authorities after signing the condition reports in the documentation submitted to the authorities for the clearance on works to start. No evidence was brought against Mangion about false declarations, noted Mifsud.

The court said that society had also been harmed. Despite the settlement, there was a debt to be paid to society, said the magistrate.

Whilst understanding the interest of the landowners and equipment owners, the other two accused are still to be tried, and so the site and the machinery seized could not be released as yet.

Quoting the Archbishop – himself a lawyer – Mifsud said, “we are seeking justice, not vengeance…we are only asking that we feel safe in our homes and appeal to the state authorities to not only hear this but put it into practice.” The authorities should not simply be a façade, said the court.

Noting that there was fear in the general public whenever there is construction nearby, the court said that “nobody in the authorities should be afraid of cowboys.”

Taking into account the accused’s clean criminal record and other factors, it did not feel that prison was fitting but said a community service order in its maximum was fitting.

The architects were declared guilty of causing Pace’s death through negligence and causing damage to neighbouring buildings.

Camilleri was additionally found guilty of making false declarations to public authorities.

The court sentenced him to 480 hours of community service and a €10,000 fine.

Mangion was sentenced to 400 hours of community service and an €8,000 fine.

The men were also ordered to bear costs.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi appeared for the accused. Lawyers Joe Giglio and David Bonello appeared for the Pace family. Superintendent Robert Vella and Inspector Matthew Galea prosecuted.