Fireworks enthusiasts' €15,000 fine reduced to community service on appeal

The two men had launched fireworks illegally from a scaffold set up in a Xewkija field

A €15,000 fine handed to two Gozitan fireworks enthusiasts over a 2018 incident which caused a bystander to suffer grievous injuries has been revoked and substituted by a community service order by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Last May, Stephen Borg and Edmond Camilleri were fined €15,000 each for illegally launching fireworks from a scaffold set up in a Xewkija field, back in June 2018. 

The men had also been charged with having negligently caused serious injury to a third party as a result of their actions, but these charges were subsequently ruled time-barred. Five other men had also faced charges in connection with the incident but had been acquitted. 

Borg and Camilleri had filed an appeal, arguing that the court-appointed expert had reported that two types of fireworks - one known as “Chinese cakes” and the other “stoppini” had been used. The sole difference between the two types of pyrotechnics was that stoppini were launched individually from separate tubes and “Chinese cakes” were essentially a string of stoppini whose launch tubes were joined by a fuse.

Under the law in force at the time stoppini could not exceed 1cm in diameter and Chinese cakes could not exceed 3cm.

Borg and Camilleri had insisted that they had separated the launch tubes for the Chinese cakes and set them up on different parts of the scaffold so as to launch them individually. This did not mean that in so doing, they had become stoppini, argued the appellants.

They also pointed out that the court expert had noted that the fireworks in question had all been imported from abroad, whereas stoppini were locally produced.

The accused had been manufacturing and launching fireworks for most of their lives and had always practised their craft prudently and diligently,  the lawyers had argued.

These arguments did not find favour with Madame Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, presiding the Court of Criminal Appeal. 

The judge did, however, uphold the appellants’ argument that the €15,000 fine imposed on them was disproportionate when considering the miniscule difference between the legal maximum and the actual diameter of the fireworks in question. 

Although the punishment handed down at first instance fell within the parameters established by the law, the judge said that, having taken into consideration all of the circumstances of the case, she was not of the opinion that the punishment imposed was the ideal one. 

For this reason, the judge revoked the €15,000 fines and instead sentenced the men to 60 hours of community service each.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Jacob Magri appeared for the appellants.