Appeals court halves 'it-Topo' Daren Debono's six-month sentence for dishonouring plea deal

The plea deal caused a great deal of embarrassment to the Office of the Attorney General

A judge has halved the six-month jail sentence handed to Daren Debono in February for refusing, on the witness stand, to name his accomplices in a bank robbery after benefiting from a plea deal.

The plea deal caused a great deal of consternation and acute embarrassment to the Office of the Attorney General which remained bound by its part of the agreement.

Debono had been charged after he reneged on an eleventh-hour plea deal under which he was sentenced to ten years in prison in return for testimony against Vincent Muscat over the 2010 HSBC hold-up. In that sitting, despite receiving the reduced sentence under plea deal, after his sentence was confirmed, Debono had brazenly refused to identify his accomplices anyway, citing fears for his safety.

The charge of refusing to be sworn in or depose as a witness carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment for three months and a €4,600 fine, which goes up to six months if the person is a recidivist. 

His lawyers had subsequently filed an appeal, which had been adjourned to today for judgement.

Reading only the dispositive part of his judgement in open court this morning, Mr. Justice Aaron Bugeja confirmed the finding of guilt on the charge of refusing to testify, but not the aggravated offence, ruling that Debono had only committed the generic offence of recidivism.

Debono’s six month prison sentence was revoked and substituted by the punishment of three months in prison. The judge confirmed the rest of the Court of Magistrate’s judgement.

Lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo represented Debono in the appeal.