Probation for drug addicts who punched elderly man and stole wallet

Two men get probation after attacking elderly neighbour to steal his wallet and mobile phone

Two drug addicts who attacked an elderly man and stole his wallet have been placed under the supervision of probation officers.

Jurgen Vassallo and Addie Magri from Senglea were arrested in February 2019 after police received an anonymous tip off that they had mugged an old man.

On February 3, 2019 at around 5pm, the victim was approached by two men whom he described as drug addicts, and whom he recognised as relatives of his neighbours. He told the police that he had been robbed of his wallet and mobile phone, although the man had found his phone in his jacket the next day.

Later an anonymous phone call passed on more information about Magri, who was engaging third parties to be his accomplices in crimes of theft. The caller added that around two hours prior, Addie Magri and someone else had attacked an elderly man who appeared to be drunk and took his wallet.

The accused had also subsequently been recognised from CCTV of the incident, taken from a nearby shop.

Both Magri and Vassallo had beaten the old man and injured him. Magri was also injured during the assault.

The victim told the police that the two men had walked up behind him. When he turned his head to look at them one of them punched him in the face while the other took his wallet. No words were exchanged, he said. The police noted that the victim appeared to be drunk and was slurring his words when he made the report and asked him to return the next day.

In court the victim recognised Magri as the person who punched him. He knew him as he lived in the same street as him. With regards to Vassallo, the victim said he knew his father. He said he had lashed out at the men as he felt his wallet being taken out of his back pocket.

Vassallo chose not to testify, but released a statement to the police claiming that Addie Magri had mooted the idea of robbing the old man. It was Magri who took the wallet from the man’s jacket and was punched by the victim, before punching him back. Interrogated by the police, Magri used his right to silence and did not reply to any questions.

At the request of the defence, the court ordered a psychiatric evaluation of the accused in order to determine their intellectual capacity. Magri was found to have a severe cannabis and heroin problem which would affect his mental state at times. Vassallo was found to have a “mild to moderate” intellectual disability that made it difficult for him to appreciate the consequences of his actions.

The court, presided by Magistrate Nadine Lia, noted that at no stage was it claimed by the defence that the men were incapable of forming criminal intent and pointed out that the accused had answered questions about the charges against them on five separate occasions.

Medical experts also confirmed that Vassallo was understanding the court proceedings. The men’s drug problems were rooted in their choice to refuse to address them, said the court. This was not a case of diminished responsibility, ruled the magistrate.

Making reference to leading authors in the field and related case law, the magistrate observed that the prosecution was resting its case principally on the testimony of the victim, as corroborated by CCTV footage. Although the man appeared to be drunk at the time he was robbed, he had recalled the incident consistently and in detail, said the court.

Magistrate Lia found both men guilty of aggravated theft. Magri alone was found guilty of slight bodily harm and recidivism. Vassallo alone was found guilty of breaching probation.

Magri had resisted all efforts to rehabilitate him from drug abuse, said the court. Vassallo, too had never attended a drug rehab programme but his probation officer reported that he was becoming calmer and more stable in his behaviour with time.

The court said it was of the opinion that in the circumstances it would be in the best interests of both the accused and society if the men were placed under probation and treatment orders. Magri and Vassallo were sentenced to 2 years probation. A 2-year treatment order was also imposed.

The men were also placed under personal guarantees of €1,000 for the period of one year. A 3-year restraining order in favour of the victim was also imposed.

They were also ordered to pay €2,054.41 in costs, between them. Lawyers Mario Mifsud and Christian Camilleri appeared for Magri. Lawyer Christopher Chircop represented Vassallo.