Court orders retrial of company director jailed for scaffolding collapse that paralysed teenager

A man who was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment for criminal negligence after a scaffolding structure collapsed and injured several young people will have his case heard again

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A judge has ordered the retrial of a company director who had been jailed, after being found responsible for a 2008 incident, in which a teenager was left paralysed after a lighting structure collapsed on her.

Maurice Attard of Sonlit Ltd had been sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment for criminal negligence and causing grievous bodily harm, in 2016. Sonlit Ltd had been subcontracted to install a truss, from which lighting equipment was suspended, at an open-air public disco in a parking area in St Paul's Bay.

Some three hours into the party, strong winds had caused the structure and the heavy spotlights to collapse, injuring eight people.

Vlada Kravchenko was just 17 when she suffered a spinal cord injury, as a result of the collapse, and is now constrained to use a wheelchair. The Ukrainian teenager had just arrived at the party, when the scaffolding collapsed.

Attard had filed an appeal against his conviction, arguing amongst other things, that the Court of Magistrates had not asked the accused whether he wished to be tried summarily or before the Criminal Court – an important point of procedure. The defect in formality occurred in 2010, and the case subsequently passed through the hands of three different magistrates.

In his submissions before the appellate court, the Attorney General confirmed that the accused had not been asked this question, but argued that this did not bring about the nullity of the proceedings because the defence had not raised it before the Court of Magistrates, which had continued to hear all the evidence in the case, including the testimony of the accused himself.

Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti, presiding the court of Criminal Appeal, noted that at the time of Attard’s conviction, the Court of Magistrates’ competence had increased, allowing it to hear cases punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

The court had started compiling evidence in the man’s case as it initially did not have the Attorney General’s consent to hear the case summarily. When the AG did, eventually, request the case to be tried summarily, the court had been legally obliged to ask the accused, whether he had any objection to this.

Attard alleged that he was never asked this question. The prosecution argued that this consent was tacit, as he had not only let proceedings continue, but had also testified in them.

Deciding the case, the judge emphasised that the first court had to ask the accused whether he consented to summary proceedings or not. This essential formality could not be inferred, said the judge, explaining that the absence of it was fatal to the case.

Lawyers Giannella De Marco and Stephen Tonna Lowell appeared as defence counsel to Attard.