Judge rejects Roderick Cassar’s bail request

A judge has rejected a bail request filed by Roderick Cassar, a man accused of fatally shooting his wife Bernice in the face last year, after hearing how he had also threatened to kill the victim’s children, even after his arrest

A judge has rejected a bail request filed by Roderick Cassar, the man accused of fatally shooting his wife Bernice in the face, last year, after hearing how he had threatened to kill the victim’s children, even after his arrest.

Mr. Justice Neville Camilleri heard submissions by Cassar’s lawyers and prosecutors in connection with the bail request that was filed yesterday.

First to make submissions on that request was lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, defence counsel together with lawyer Franco Debono. Azzopardi conceded that the case was a very serious one, but argued that the Attorney General’s written arguments against bail dealt with the merits, which were being contested.

He said that the defence had waited till today to request bail to allow the prosecution witnesses to testify, suggesting that only the testimony of a court-appointed expert remained pending before the compilation of evidence.

There was “no risk” of Cassar fleeing the country, as his family were all in Malta, said the lawyer, suggesting a temporary order of supervision as an option. Cassar was also facing other proceedings which had not yet started, conceded the lawyer. “Mr. Cassar understands that he must bow his head to all the obligations and conditions imposed by the court.”

But prosecutor Angele Vella from the Office of the Attorney General informed the court that there were, in fact, further civilian witnesses who have not yet testified and the defendant was actively calling up witnesses and threatening them.

“He would phone the victim's father and tell him that if he wasn’t going to be allowed to enjoy the children, nobody would,” said Vella, adding that Cassar had also called up another witness, telling her that he would get his revenge “on all of you.”

“I cannot fail to bring this to the attention of the court,” said the lawyer.

The defendant’s character was reflected in his attitude, she argued, reminding the court  that Cassar had left the murder scene. “After the alleged murder, the defendant didn’t stay there to turn himself in, he fled and holed himself up for 17 hours, refusing the police’s orders to come out.”

“With the guillotine coming down on you, for the worst crime you can commit, can you trust a person whose first instinct was to flee?” asked the lawyer.

The prosecutor argued that the defendant was “incapable of obeying authority.” 

“The prosecution does not believe that he will obey the court’s orders. The prosecution fully believes, in the context of the threats made to the family after the incident, that he is not capable of following bail conditions.”

Debono then compared Cassar’s situation to the defendants in the cases against Lorin Scicluna and Francesco Fenech, who are accused of the drive-by shooting of Lassana Cisse and Justin Borg, who is indicted for the murder of the mother of his children, Chantelle Chetcuti. “The crimes are similar, the cases are similar and they were granted bail by the Criminal Court,” Debono argued. 

The judge replied that comparisons are odious and that every case had to be decided on its own merits. “I believe that comparisons are necessary,” replied Debono, briefly bickering with the judge.

Mr. Justice Camilleri pointed out that “variations in decrees happen because the fabric of the cases are different. The facts are never identical. It is impossible. Similar maybe, but identical, never.” 

Debono replied that comparisons with similar cases were needed for uniformity and consistency in decisions, before changing tack and suggesting electronic tagging, pointing to decrees which recommended the introduction of the practice. The courts were recommending tagging but it was not being implemented by the State, except in very limited circumstances, he said, inviting the court to consider tagging.

The defence also suggested a bail supervision order or bail secured by third-party guarantors as valid possibilities.

Deciding on the bail application, the judge noted the stage reached by the compilation of evidence, as well as the crimes attributed to the defendant.

He denied the request for bail, explaining that the court “at least till now, is not satisfied that should the applicant be granted bail, he will be prepared to abide by the conditions.”

Mr. Justice Neville Camilleri presided.

Roderick Cassar was represented by lawyers Arthur Azzopardi, Franco Debono and Jacob Magri.

The victim's family is being represented by lawyer Stefano Filletti.

Lawyers Angele Vella, Darlene Grima and Anthony Vella from the office of the Attorney General, prosecuted.