Stun gun robber's five-year sentence slashed to probation after retrial

Court of Appeal had ordered a retrial over missing reference to article of the law in the judgment

File Photo
File Photo

A man, jailed for five years last January after being convicted of mugging two women whilst armed with a stun gun, has seen his sentence slashed to probation and community service upon his retrial after a court of appeal had declared his initial conviction null.

Keith Felice, 32, from Tarxien had been convicted of the theft of €60 and a packet of cigarettes, aggravated by violence and means, possession of a weapon during a crime against the person, holding his victims against their will, stealing a mobile phone and recidivism.

Last December, Felice had pleaded guilty to the crimes, which had taken place in August 2020. He was subsequently jailed for five years, with a protection order also issued.

After changing his lawyer, Felice had filed an appeal. The appeal was successful with the court annulling the initial judgment on the grounds that it failed to indicate the article of the law under which he was charged, sending the acts back to the Court of Magistrates to hear the case again.

The case was subsequently assigned to magistrate Victor Axiaq, who ordered a pre-sentencing report be drawn up.

In October 2021, Felice’s probation officer presented her report, which emphatically stated that the accused had “made giant steps towards rehabilitation from drug abuse” and which informed the court that the accused had been “clean” for a year.

He had also found full-time employment and had the support of his family, wrote the probation officer.

Deciding the case, magistrate Victor Axiaq observed that while the original sentence had been correct and well within the parameters of the law, “true justice requires this court… to take everything into account, including any change in the accused’s social circumstances.”

Saying that he saw a “ray of light” in this case, the magistrate said he felt it would be a shortcoming on his part if he did not adopt the recommendations of the probation officer.

For these reasons, the court, whilst confirming Felice’s guilt, issued him with a three-year Probation Order, together with a 100-hour Community Service Order instead of a prison sentence.

With regards to the weapon charge, the court sentenced him to three months in prison, but said that he had already served that time under arrest.

Instead of a protection order, a three-year restraining order was issued in favour of the victims.

Police inspectors Mario Xiberras and Joanna Piscopo prosecuted.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Francesca Zarb appeared for the accused from the appeal stage onwards.