Underage driver charged with injuring policeman shown driving with his feet in online video uploaded the night before

17-year-old accused of injuring a traffic policeman after being spotted behind the wheel of a car, had uploaded a video of himself driving a car at night with a mobile phone in each hand while steering with his feet the night before the incident

File photo
File photo

A 17-year-old accused of injuring a traffic policeman after being spotted behind the wheel of a car, had uploaded a video of himself driving a car at night with a mobile phone in each hand while steering with his feet the night before the incident.

This emerged as the young man, whose name is subject to a court-imposed ban on publication, was arraigned before Magistrate Giannella Camilleri Busuttil on Thursday afternoon.

Inspector Kevin Pulis and Gabriel Micallef charged the 17-year-old youth with violently resisting a police officer acting in the line of duty, insulting or threatening the officer, slightly injuring him and disobeying the policeman’s lawful orders.

He was also charged with driving without a licence, driving without insurance cover, reckless driving and dangerous driving. His tenth and final charge was that of failing to give his correct particulars to the police officer.

The court imposed a ban on the publication of the name or details of the accused, in view of his age

Inspector Pulis explained what had led to the arrest, telling the court that during the evening of May 30, a traffic policeman who had been managing traffic in Floriana, noticed a Renault Megane being driven by a visibly underage driver and had ordered it to pull over.

When asked for ID, the driver had handed over an expired licence that had been issued to someone else, he said.

At that point, the policeman recognised the driver as having previously been stopped for the same offence and ordered him to get out of the car.

But instead of complying with the order, the driver pressed the accelerator and drove off, dragging the police officer for a short distance.

The police had launched a manhunt for the youth, carrying out searches both at his ordinary place of residence - his parents’ house, as well as that of his girlfriend’s. The defendant was not found, however, but later turned himself in that evening.

The car was subsequently found in Pieta by the police.

Standing in the dock with his left forearm in a plaster cast, the 17-year-old, who said he worked as a car wash attendant, pleaded not guilty to the charges. Defence counsel Mario Mifsud requested bail.

The prosecution objected to the bail request. “The decision to arraign a person under arrest is the police’s and is taken after considering the circumstances and evidence available to it,” Inspector Pulis said.

“When releasing someone on bail, the court must have absolute peace of mind that the defendant will adhere to the bail conditions imposed. It is a shame that we have to charge a 17-year-old, it brings a tear to our eye, but this man has a background of unlicensed, reckless and even dangerous driving,” said the Inspector, adding that the youth had clearly not learned his lesson despite having been stopped by police officers while doing so in the past.

To illustrate the accused youth’s attitude, the inspector told the court that he had uploaded a video to social media on the night before the incident, in which he was driving a car at night, holding a mobile phone in each hand and steering the vehicle with his feet.

While conceding that the defendant had a troubled background which had probably contributed to his behaviour, the inspector said he would be a great danger to public safety if released on bail, suggesting that he be held at the Young Offenders Unit if remanded in custody.

Defence lawyer Matthew Xuereb began his submissions on the bail request by saying that most of the charges dealt with traffic offences. The Magistrate, however, interrupted the lawyer to point out that the first four charges dealt with violent crimes against police officers.

Stressing the youth’s young age, clean criminal record and voluntary surrender, Xuereb said the defendant’s elderly father had done his best to provide guidance to his son and was open to providing bail supervision.

Inspector Pulis replied that the defendant’s 79-year-old father had told the police that the youth only stayed at his house sporadically. “In fact, we didn’t find him there.”

The local police station was constantly helping the father out with his problems regarding the defendant and his other children, added the inspector, submitting that the father would not be able to ensure the defendant’s compliance with his bail conditions.

In his rejoinder, defence lawyer Mario Mifsud began by thanking the police for the valuable work that they do. Mifsud passionately argued that the accused was at a crossroads and that his lawyers could help “gently guide him back on the right path.”

“He is on the doorstep of prison, hanging by a thread. Sending him to juvenile detention will not do him any good, but rather cause him to lose any fear he has of going to prison. We must show him some love and give him a chance, while teaching him that he is heading in a dangerous direction,” submitted the lawyer.

The lawyer argued that breaching bail carried a harsher punishment than the charges the accused was already facing and would hurt his chances of getting bail in any future cases.

After hearing the submissions by both parties, the court said that despite the young age of the defendant, in the circumstances and in the light of the serious offences he is accused of, it was not assured that he would abide by the conditions it could impose.

The magistrate ordered that the defendant be remanded in custody at the facility operated by the Young Offenders Rehabilitation Services, also making a recommendation to the prison director that he ensure that all necessary medical assistance, including psychological assistance is made available to the defendant.

The court also imposed a provisional supervision order on the youth, urging the prosecution to bring its witnesses without delay.

Lawyers Mario Mifsud and Matthew Xuereb represented the defendant.