Suspended jail sentence for prison boss Robert Brincau in firearm incident

CCF chief Robert Brincau sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for three years, over firearm incident at Għadira Bay • Resigns from post

CCF director Robert Brincau
CCF director Robert Brincau

Updated at 10:55am with court details

Prison Director Robert Brincau has been convicted of threatening a man with a handgun and slightly injuring him during an argument at the beach.

Brincau, 49, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for three years over the August 2022 incident at Għadira.

Just after the judgment was delivered on Tuesday morning, Brincau resigned his post and the Home Affairs Ministry immediately appointed Christopher Siegersma.

Inspector Ryan Vella had charged Brincau with slight bodily harm, threatening a man with a weapon, insulting and threatening the man, carrying an unlicensed firearm in public, being armed during the commission of an offence and breaching the peace, in connection with the 21 August incident at Għadira Bay.

Witnesses described to the court how the prison director had allegedly threatened an ambulance crew with a handgun in an incident apparently motivated by commercial rivalry between the ambulance service provider and the Malta Red Cross, which Brincau had been the director of.

The court had heard the ambulance driver testify that this was not the first incident where a Malta Red Cross beach supervisor had attempted to prevent casualties from being transported to Mater Dei Hospital by Alpha Medical.

“If the patient tells us he wants to go to Mater Dei, we take him to Mater Dei. But the supervisor insisted that he had to call an ambulance from Mater Dei. The Red Cross supervisor didn’t want to let us take the patient,” a witness testified.

A similar situation had also occurred on 23 July, and had also involved the witness. The ambulance driver denied suggestions that he had used violence on that occasion and pointed out that the police had not investigated him about it.

The ambulance driver told the court that after being head-butted, he had punched the assailant, only dealing him a glancing blow as he had been holding his phone and keys in his punching hand. Around 30 seconds later, he found himself with a gun pointed at him.

A nurse who had been inside the ambulance had started filming the incident on the company-issued mobile phone as soon as she saw the gun being drawn, he said.

The court noted that several eyewitnesses had accurately described the handgun, even before it was shown to them in court.

CCTV footage also showed the accused putting his hand behind him and reaching for something tucked into his bermuda shorts. Although the court was unable to identify what the accused had taken out of the shorts, it noted that the account given to the police was faithful to that seen by the court.

The dynamics of the incident as seen on CCTV also matched the account given by the witnesses.

The court said there was no plausible reason for the three eyewitnesses, including a patient who happened to be receiving treatment in the ambulance at the time, to invent such a worrying account of events which the accused denied had happened.

The accused did not have a firearms licence, but had said that his various meetings with the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General gave him the impression that it was a grey area in the law, which was still being discussed.

The court also examined Brincau’s claim to be legally allowed to carry a concealed firearm with him at all times, concluding that this did not find succour in the Arms Act.

“This means that in order for a prison official to be allowed to carry a firearm when off duty, he requires a permit from the Commissioner of Police.”

As it had been established that Brincau had been carrying the weapon during the commission of an offence against the person, in this case, slight bodily harm, the charge to that effect was also proven, said the court.

Although Brincau had an unblemished criminal record, the court explained that the accused “must certainly understand that what he did can in no way be punished lightly.”

Brincau was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for three years. The weapon – a Glock handgun – was confiscated together with the 10 rounds of 9mm ammunition it was seized with.

A protection order was issued in favour of the victim and the witnesses.

Brincau took over the directorship of the Corradino Correctional Facility from Lt. Col. Alexander Dalli in 2021 following a string of inmate suicides.

Brincau was kept on as prison director despite being charged with the incident last August. Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri had stood by Brincau, insisting some of the media reports on Brincau’s charges were “more sensational than others”.

The minister had insisted the case against Brincau be heard before any decision is taken.

The Opposition had called for Brincau’s temporary suspension pending the court case.

READ MORE: Minister stands by prison director charged with threatening ambulance driver with a weapon