Bouncer accused of beating, seriously injuring club patron

The victim of a beating by a bouncer claimed he was arguing with his girlfriend when the accused intervened

The accused was granted him bail against a deposit of €500 and a personal guarantee of €5,000
The accused was granted him bail against a deposit of €500 and a personal guarantee of €5,000

A bouncer with a history of convictions for theft and violent crimes has been charged with beating up and grievously injuring a man while on duty at a party in Rabat, late last month.

Jean Paul Azzopardi, 29, from Bormla, was arraigned before Magistrate Gabriella Vella this afternoon, accused of inflicting both slight and grievous bodily harm upon a party goer who had been involved in an argument.

During his arraignment, Azzopardi told the court that he works as a driver.

Inspector Roderick Agius explained that on 31 July, a man had filed a report at the Zebbug police station, claiming that he had been arguing with his girlfriend at Gianpula, when the accused intervened and beat him up, causing him to suffer several injuries.

Some of the injuries were classified as slight, but others were certified as grievous in nature. The man was currently under the care of an eye specialist as he was experiencing double vision, added the inspector.

The prosecution also pointed out that the accused had been out on bail in connection with two separate, ongoing criminal cases at the time of the altercation. 

Lawyer Franco Debono, appearing for the accused, asked the inspector whether he had spoken to Azzopardi before the man’s arrest on Monday. A police sergeant had spoken to him before then, replied the inspector.

“So, from 31 July he spoke to a sergeant and what, he was sent home?” asked the lawyer.

Inspector Agius explained that medical certification regarding the permanence of some of the injuries suffered by the alleged victim had been pending.

The sergeant had sent for the accused and had spoken to him several days before the arrest, but the injuries had only been certified as grievous around two days ago, the inspector replied.

The inspector objected to Debono’s line of questioning, as to whether the accused had approached the victim during that time, saying that he had never been asked such questions during an arraignment before.

Debono told the court that he had been arguing for “many years” that the courts should first examine whether the nature of the alleged crime justified an arraignment under arrest or whether an arraignment by summons would suffice. “I hope the time will come, when this exercise is carried out, where not only the arrest is justified but also the arraignment itself.”

The defence requested bail, which was objected to by the prosecution on the grounds of lack of trustworthiness. “The accused’s criminal record shows that the majority of his past convictions are related to violent crime. The accused had already been given opportunities to reform by the court. His latest bail was granted in April.”

The accused did not take his bail conditions seriously, suggested the inspector. “I don’t feel he is mature enough to appreciate the responsibilities of being on bail. This incident could have easily been avoided if the accused had used his common sense…he had no reason to intervene.”

“The accused is entitled to his rights, but these must be balanced with the rights of society. The victim had been at a club with his partner, minding his own business when he was physically attacked,” argued Inspector Agius.

In his counterarguments, Debono accused the prosecution of asking for a decision on the merits during the arraignment stage. “Almost a month, three weeks, and two days, has passed since the incident, and in all this time he did not try to escape or approach witnesses, despite being aware that he was a suspect,” argued the lawyer.

The court, noting that the accused was still presumed innocent, granted him bail against a deposit of €500 and a personal guarantee of €5,000. He was also ordered to sign a bail book every day and prohibited from going to Gianpula.

A protection order in favour of the victim was also imposed, the court warning Azzopardi that breaching it would also constitute a breach of his bail conditions, besides making him liable to a fine of up to €7,000 and two years imprisonment.