Man denied bail over baton attack on neighbour

Man is charged with causing grievous bodily harm to his neighbour after incident involving a bucket of water 

The man has been remanded in custody
The man has been remanded in custody

Simmering antagonism between two neighbours erupted into violence on Monday, with a San Gwann homeowner allegedly using a telescopic baton to beat up the owner of an adjacent confectionery.

Inspector Jean Paul Attard arraigned 35-year-old property developer Matthew Charles Costigan before Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras on Thursday afternoon, accusing him of causing grievous bodily harm to his neighbour, insulting and threatening him, attacking him and voluntarily breaching the peace. The prosecution requested the court issue a protection order in favour of the neighbour in question, as well as his family.

Costigan pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Inspector Attard explained that the accused had gone to the St Julians police station to report that he had just used a telescopic baton on another man, who was subsequently taken to hospital.

Costigan had been released on police bail until the victim’s injuries were assessed by a doctor and was summoned to the police headquarters the next day. The accused had told the police that he had assaulted the man because he was afraid of him.

The inspector pointed out that the accused resided next door to a confectionary owned and run by the alleged victim. The two men had been at loggerheads for years, he added.

At around 1pm on the day of the incident, the victim had arrived at the confectionary, together with his young son and bumped into the accused. CCTV then showed that Costigan had proceeded to pull out a telescopic baton from his bag and beat the man up with it.

The victim was later certified as having been grievously injured, said the inspector.

It emerged that the victim’s brother had sent the police CCTV footage showing Costigan throwing a bucket of water on the brother’s van, leading to an argument and the brother filing a criminal complaint about the altercation.

When the victim had confronted Costigan with the fact that he had hurt his brother, the accused had replied with words to the effect that “today I hurt him, tomorrow I don’t know what could happen,” said the inspector.

In view of the two men’s history of antagonism, the police felt that it was necessary to arrest Costigan in order to prevent further incidents.

The court was also told that Costigan had been arrested at his home, leaving the police outside his front door for an hour, after he refused to open the door until he spoke to his lawyer.

Defence lawyer Roberto Spiteri requested bail for his client. This was objected to by the prosecution in view of the proximity of the accused's residence and the victim’s shop, and telling the court that the accused had ignored the police’s instructions to keep away from the alleged victim.

If bail was to be granted, the prosecution asked the court to also make provisions for the protection of the alleged victim’s family and employees.

Lawyer Edmond Cuschieri appearing as parte civile for the alleged victim told the court that the accused’s criminal record “showed that he had a problem with authority” and that he was not likely to obey the court’s orders. “He needs to be taught a lesson about where the consequences of his actions can lead him,” submitted the lawyer.

Spiteri argued that normally, such offences were contraventional in nature, and that the accused had been arrested over the bucket incident.

“This was a moment where the accused went to move the air conditioner bucket and tried to empty it in such a way as to not wet his facade.” Every act by the accused was being interpreted as hostile, he said, suggesting that the prosecution’s arguments should be taken “with a pinch of salt.”

The accused had left his house to take his young son to a karate lesson, submitted the defence, arguing that the fact that he had never been accused of breaching bail disproved the parte civile’s assertion that he had a problem with authority.

Both parties had filed multiple reports over trivial matters, the court was told. “While these are annoying, they are not grounds to place people in prison,” submitted Spiteri.

The court, having taken into account the dispositions of the law on bail and the facts of the case, chose not to release the accused on bail at this stage, saying that it was not satisfied that he would abide by any conditions it might impose.