Lawyer invites prosecution to spend a week in prison, after client's bail refusal

A man charged with attempted aggravated theft was denied bail, in spite of his cooperation

Man was charged with two attempted thefts aggravated by means, value and numerical violence
Man was charged with two attempted thefts aggravated by means, value and numerical violence

A lawyer defending a man charged with attempted aggravated theft has invited the prosecuting officer to prosecution to “spend a week in prison to see what it’s like,” after the prosecution filed an objection to bail, in spite of the man’s cooperation.

Joseph Saliba from Mqabba was arraigned by Inspector Joseph Mercieca before magistrate Lara Lanfranco in connection with two attempted thefts this afternoon. 

He charged Saliba with two attempted thefts aggravated by means, value and numerical violence - one from a warehouse in Qrendi in May and the other from Safi in June. He was also accused of criminal damage and recidivism.

A not guilty plea was filed, by lawyer Mario Mifsud, appearing as defence counsel for Saliba together with lawyer Christian Camilleri. Bail was requested.

The request was objected to by the Inspector, who informed the court that one of the principal witnesses, who had been arraigned on cigarette thefts from the customs department bonded stores some days ago, works with the accused. The defence argued that the two men no longer worked together.

Saliba was identified from CCTV as driving the getaway car, said the prosecutor. 

Inspector Mercieca also told the prosecutor that the accused was the father of a child with special needs and that this fact might have left him open to manipulation. 

In passionate submissions on bail, Mifsud told the court that the charges did not deal with grave offences. The inspector had been investigating the accused for over a month and he had been on police bail for this time, never approaching any of the witnesses, whom he knew and had even been allowed to travel abroad, explained the defence lawyer.

“They spend 24 hours under arrest, being bombarded by messages to change lawyers in order to be granted bail,” submitted the lawyer. He said the accused was an ideal candidate for bail, having an “almost spotless” criminal record. The prosecution’s star witness had been identified by the police and had no reason not to testify. He objected to the accused being detained for weeks until the prosecution witness testified, pointing out that the police had spoken to the witness, the accused had been on police bail and that the police had taken a long time to arraign him.

The crime had been motivated by a debt, explained the lawyer. 

“The court will have the opportunity to examine the merits, but the offences do not necessarily carry with them the punishment of imprisonment… He is an ideal candidate for bail,” insisted the lawyer, before inviting the prosecution to spend a week in prison “to see what it’s like.” 

The lawyer interrupted the magistrate as she started to dictate a refusal of the man’s bail request, offering to renounce the not-guilty plea to “plead guilty and take probation.” The magistrate said that this was offensive to the court.

“He revealed his accomplice. He is being penalised for giving up a person’s name, who was then found guilty. Some risks will always remain, but does this mean he has to be detained?”

“It is the first serious case that this man has, the courts always boast of giving second chances… here we are telling the public that even if you help the police, they will still object to your release on bail.”

Other evidence was already preserved, said the lawyer. “There is CCTV, I can reveal, that shows the accused with a crowbar in his hands.” 

Inspector Mercieca said that this footage was from the morning, but that the theft took place in the evening. “He should have thought about this before. He could have gone to a lawyer and said there was a debt of €15,000”.

“I gave [the prosecution] the witness myself,” Mifsud submitted, his voice rising.

The magistrate, however, calmly pointed out that it also was true that the witness was yet to testify.

Bail was, therefore, denied at this stage.