Youth admits to setting van on fire

An 18-year-old man has admitted to arson charges after setting a van alight in Qormi

An 18-year-old man has admitted to arson charges after setting a van alight in Qormi.

Inspectors Kevin Pulis, Mario Xiberras and Jeffrey Scicluna arraigned the man before magistrate Charmaine Galea this morning, accusing him of setting the Ford Transit van on fire in Triq ic-Cawsli, Qormi, on 14 August this year. He was also accused of criminal damage to private property.

The accused, who is not being named after the court, ordered a ban on the publication of his name, suggested by both parties in view of mental health problems, appeared in court accompanied by a carer from Mount Carmel Hospital.

The accused pleaded guilty to the charges and begged the court for mercy. The Court said it would not send him to prison if he agreed to submit to treatment.

The accused appeared agitated, turning around, speaking loudly. Of his own accord, the accused apologised and promised not to touch another car. “I will undergo treatment for as long as I live…I didn’t want to set it alight. I didn’t know what was happening; I just wanted to light the lighter,” said the accused.

Inspector Pulis told the court that the accused had been identified as the culprit from CCTV cameras. The owner of the van lived near a relative of the accused but had no connection. The accused’s medical consultant had recommended a probation and treatment order, added the inspector, saying that he would be suggesting this course of action.

The prosecution suggested the same. The defence said they relied on the medical assessment. The van was insured, but the damages to it had not been quantified as yet, said the inspector.

Attard asked the court to allow the accused’s parents to pay the damages in instalments. The request was upheld.

The court explained to the accused that he would have a probation officer assigned to him. If he doesn’t cooperate with the probation officer, he could go to prison, warned the court. “Today will be my warning. I will not touch another thing that isn’t mine as from today.”

The court found the man guilty and sentenced him to three years on probation and to a three-year treatment order. He was ordered to pay the costs of the inquiry within two years.

“How can I pay? I don’t have a job!” cried the accused. “So I need to work and pay for it...I will pay them, not my parents,” he said, panicking when he was told that he would spend time in prison if he did not pay the costs of the case. The court calmed down the agitated man. His parents, present in the courtroom, wept. 

“We are not well off,” his mother was heard to say.

The accused thanked the magistrate before leaving the courtroom, promising to abide by the court's orders.

Lawyer Daniel Attard was legal aid counsel to the accused.