Lawyer representing shoplifter behind series of thefts says society failed his client

Shoplifter charged with stealing several items, including a pair of shoes, socks and a bag

A 57-year-old man from Valletta remains under arrest after being charged with several counts of shoplifting from retailers in the capital city, with his lawyer telling the court that society had failed his client.

Francis Grech appeared before Magistrate Elaine Mercieca Rizzo this morning, charged with stealing several items, including a pair of shoes, socks and a bag.

Grech was charged with a string of thefts starting on February 16, the second happening on March 11 and the third on March 25. The latest theft took place last Sunday.

He was also charged with committing a crime while under a probation order, becoming a repeat offender and failing to comply with bail conditions imposed on him by the Magistrates' Court.

Inspector Gabriel Micallef prosecuting, together with Inspector Daryl Borg, told the Court that the Valletta police station had received four reports of shoplifting in the last few weeks.

He said that Grech had been caught by the police in the act of stealing a pair of shoes and confirmed that the value of the stolen items was minor.

At this point, the accused told the court that he wanted to go to prison to confront another prisoner, immediately before pleading not guilty to the charges against him.

Grech’s defence counsel, lawyer Noel Bianco requested bail for the defendant, telling the court that society had failed his client, who had just wanted to draw attention to himself.

The lawyer explained that the value of the items stolen did not exceed €30. Grech had committed the thefts because of his bad luck, finding himself unable to find work. He described the defendant, who lived alone, as a person seeking attention and who needed help.

The prosecution strongly objected to the bail request, with Inspector Micallef telling the court that Grech could not be trusted not to re-offend, pointing to his colourful criminal record, adding that had been arraigned several times on theft charges.

The Inspector explained that the accused was currently on bail over another case where he is accused of theft. Grech also had previous convictions for theft, he said.

Bianco pointed out that his ongoing case should have been concluded a long time ago, but had not, for reasons which were not the responsibility of the defendant. "It is not right to squeeze this poor man for his last drop of blood,” said the lawyer, adding that he had already paid for his past mistakes “by spending around 25 years in prison."

The court said that at this stage it would be rejecting the bail request as there were still a number of witnesses yet to testify about the alleged theft. The Court recommended the Director of the Corradino Correctional Facility provide the accused with the assistance and treatment he required.