70-year-old man granted bail over €50 2017 fuel theft

The accused has a number of repeat convictions and has served time in prison for petty offences

File photo
File photo

A court has granted bail to a man who had spent over a year in prison under preventive arrest, after being charged over a fuel theft in 2017.

The case against 70-year-old Angelus Vella continued before magistrate Astrid May Grima this morning. Vella had originally been accused of stealing €50 worth of fuel from a service station in Qormi.

Vella also has a number of repeat convictions and had served time in prison for petty offences. 

In the intervening years, Vella had been jailed over a separate drug-related case and had his bail revoked in other proceedings. 

When the case was called this morning before magistrate Astrid May Grima, police inspector Roderick Agius informed the court that the prosecution had no further evidence to exhibit.
Defence counsel, lawyers Noel Bianco and José Herrera requested the court grant bail to their client.

Herrera told the court that the accused’s life had “unravelled” after his son had died of a drug overdose. Vella had started using drugs himself and committing petty crimes.

“He’s been in prison for years on petty crimes and he’s being denied bail for stealing €50 of fuel,” submitted the lawyer, arguing that the man needed help more than anything else.

Herrera also submitted that there was no link between the two offences which his client was facing - fraud and theft. “There is no juridical nexus between the two charges, so we need to decide which charge we’re going to rely on.”

Vella had already spent over a year in prison under preventive arrest, after having served his various sentences, added the lawyer, asking that the court transform itself into a drug court to decide on the case. 

The defence also requested bail under the “de minimis” principle, arguing that the alleged crime was a very minor theft, for which the defendant had “already served the equivalent of a sentence of nearly 18 months.”

Inspector Agius informed the court that he had no submissions to make on the bail request.

The court, after hearing the submissions, upheld the request for bail, releasing Vella from arrest on condition that he observe a curfew and sign a bail book twice a week. Bail was to be secured by a deposit of €2,500 and personal guarantee of €10,000. Under his bail conditions, Vella is prohibited from going to Qormi.

The accused was also placed under a probation and a treatment order until the final judgement is delivered in December, with the court specifying that the treatment order is to include both psychological and drug addiction treatment.