Magistrate, police inspectors, to testify on brothel operator's threats and insults in courtroom fracas

A magistrate and two police inspectors are expected to testify against a woman who allegedly threatened them in a courtroom incident that took place on Monday

A magistrate and two police inspectors are expected to testify against a woman who allegedly threatened them in a courtroom incident that took place yesterday morning.

Pawlina Cutajar, 28, from Gzira, had just been convicted of running a brothel, breaching a suspended sentence and recidivism yesterday, for which she was handed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, when she allegedly began to shout at the prosecuting police inspectors and the magistrate, telling them she would “pay them back."

The incident took place on Monday during a 9am sitting before magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech.

Inspectors Daryl Borg and Gabriel Micallef charged the woman with insulting and threatening the magistrate during the exercise of her judicial duties and doing the same to police inspectors Jonathan Cassar and Roxanne Tabone who were also discharging their duties.

Cutajar was also accused of disobeying legitimate orders, attacking the police officers and the magistrate, voluntarily breaching the peace, blaspheming in public and recidivism.

During the woman’s arraignment before Magistrate Monica Vella on Tuesday, the court was told that Cutajar had reacted violently to being found guilty of running a brothel.

As proceedings began, lawyer Roberto Montalto dictated a note, in which he informed the court that his client was making “a full and unconditional apology” to everyone involved, “to magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech and in particular the Inspectors Jonathan Cassar and Roxanne Tabone.”

“On a personal level, she is apologising to Inspectors Jonathan Cassar and Roxanne Tabone, to who her inconsult words and actions were directly addressed.”

The lawyer said Cutajar understood that the two police officers were simply doing their duty and nothing else. 

Montalto denied that his client had insulted or threatened the magistrate, insisting that her words had only been directed at the police inspectors.

“With regards to the presiding magistrate…the accused declares that despite the fact that none of her words or actions was directed towards the court, she has acted without showing the respect due to its authority.”

He explained that although the woman was not jailed yesterday, the father of her child had been. “Sometimes clients get mistaken impressions,” he said, stressing that “at no time was the magistrate addressed,” and insisting that the abuse had been directed solely at the prosecuting officers.

Montalto said that he had also witnessed the incident himself and pointed out that before the accused had signed her suspension of execution of the judgement, expressing the intention to appeal, she hadn’t pointed her finger at or addressed the magistrate. He conceded that her behaviour “could have been understood as involving the magistrate.”

“The reaction was that of a mother, who had just heard that the father of her child was going to be treated in a different way to her. It was the wrong reaction,” added the lawyer, before expressing the intention to enter a guilty plea to the charges.

He asked the court to consider imposing a non-custodial sentence, together with a fine and a protection order.

After the lawyer clarified that the accused would be admitting to the charges, Inspector Borg informed the court that the prosecution did not object to the defence’s submissions on punishment. “Are you saying you accept a suspended sentence?” asked the court. He said he did.

Montalto pointed out that there had been no physical assault, only a “vociferous objection” to the outcome of the case. Inspector Micallef confirmed that this had been the case.

But Magistrate Vella, after spending several minutes quietly considering the facts of the case and the evidence before her, asked Montalto if he had read the police report. He hadn’t, he said. The court handed him a copy.

He said the transcript attached to the report wasn’t precise, adding that the accused had apologised to the court when she had gone to sign the suspension of execution of the judgement pending her appeal. “It wasn’t noted in the record but it happened.”

The legal context remained the same, he argued. “She is unconditionally apologising, without reservations.”

Montalto informed the court that if it disagreed with the defence’s argument, he would be filing an admission only to the second charge, which dealt with the charge of threatening the police inspectors.

“If there is a need, I will testify, but only as to what happened inside the courtroom. I was not present outside,” said the lawyer.

The magistrate asked the lawyer and police inspectors to approach the bench and discuss the matter privately. After a lengthy discussion, the inspectors and lawyer returned to their places in the courtroom.

Montalto requested the court to hear the testimony of police inspectors Cassar and Tabone, who were involved in the incident, so as to hear their reaction to the statement made by the accused in court today.

He requested bail until the next sitting. The prosecution did not object to the bail request. Montalto pointed out that the woman was already on bail and asked that the conditions imposed be complementary to the previous decree, adding that there were no other pending cases or criminal proceedings against the accused. 

Magistrate Vella upheld the woman’s bail request, explaining to her that she was to sign a bail book at the times and on the days stipulated by the court and also observe a curfew.

Cutajar’s release from arrest was secured by a personal guarantee of €10,000. Under no circumstances was she to approach or molest the magistrate or the police inspectors involved, warned the court. A temporary protection order was also issued pending these proceedings in favour of the magistrate and police inspectors.

“If you breach it you face a fine of up to €7,000 and imprisonment for up to two years or both.”

READ MORE: Couple sentenced for running massage parlour brothels