Daren Debono 'it-Topo' recidivism charges must be removed due to lack of evidence, judge orders

Reference to Daren Debono's previous convictions must be removed from his bill of indictment after the prosecution failed to provide evidence of his convictions in court

Daren Debono is being charged in connection to the 2010 armed robbery of a van transporting cash to HSBC's Qormi head office
Daren Debono is being charged in connection to the 2010 armed robbery of a van transporting cash to HSBC's Qormi head office

A judge has ordered that any reference to Daren Debono’s previous convictions be removed from the bill of indictment, in view of the prosecution’s failure to exhibit copies of the judgments in question.

In a decision handed down yesterday, the Criminal Court presided by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera upheld Debono’s objection to the head of indictment regarding recidivism (repeat offending).

The offence of recidivism had been included in the bill of indictment in view of Debono’s long criminal history. Besides his indictment in connection with the 2010 armed robbery of a van transporting cash to HSBC’s Qormi head office in June 2010, Debono had also been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in 2013 for carrying out a hold up at an Attard jewellers in 2011.

Before that, also in 2011, he had been sentenced to imprisonment for two years and nine months, after he was found to be in possession of 83 grams of cocaine in 2003.

In 2015, together with Alfred Degiorgio ‘il-Fulu’, and Vincent Muscat ‘il-Kohhu’, Debono had been cleared of a 2004 armed robbery in Marsa.

But amongst Debono’s nine preliminary pleas, filed in 2018, his lawyers noted that the best evidence to support the head of indictment relating to recidivism - one of the 63 heads of indictment - in this case, a copy of previous judgments finding Debono guilty of other armed robberies, had not been exhibited in the acts of the case by the prosecution.

In the 82-page judgement, the judge pointed out that recidivism was a standalone offence, which needed to be proven just like any other.

“This court has seen all of the acts of these proceedings and scrutinised them one by one, and nowhere does it show that some judgement has been exhibited as evidence of recidivism,” she said. As no evidence of the offence emerged from the acts, the court ordered that every reference to recidivism be removed from the bill of indictment.

Lawyer Edward Gatt represented Debono.