Young homeless man denied bail after alleged string of robberies

A 23-year-old man who told the court of his drug problem has been denied bail after pleading not guilty to three thefts in St. Paul's Bay

One of the robberies allegedly took place in a residence in St Paul's Bay
One of the robberies allegedly took place in a residence in St Paul's Bay

A 23-year-old homeless man has been remanded in custody after he denied charges relating to three thefts in St. Paul’s Bay, earlier this month, one of which was at knifepoint.

Police Inspectors Lydon Zammit, Stephen Gulia and Warren Galea charged the man, a barber, whose name is subject to a reporting ban, with involvement in the three robberies, one of which occurred on August 5, and the other two during the early hours of August 9. 

The most serious charge alleged that on 9 August at around 3:00am, the man had stolen cash and other items from a residence in St Paul’s Bay, with this offence being aggravated by means, time and value. He was further accused of holding the occupant against his will, injuring him and carrying a knife in public without a licence to do so.

The defendant was also accused of having, later on the same date, robbed a kiosk in the seaside town, which charge was also aggravated by means and value.

He is facing additional charges of aggravated theft relating to the robbery of a mini market in St. Paul’s Bay which had happened between 5 and 6 August, together with further charges of breaching bail conditions he had been handed in August 2021, breaching a conditional discharge and recidivism.

The second robbery, in which the knife was used, had targeted a residence and had led to a man being held against his will and slightly injured.

Magistrate Leonard Caruana was told how the police had received a report of an assault and robbery of a person outside that person’s home. CCTV and further police work had led investigators to the defendant, who was taken into custody in Gozo on August 11.

He had been granted police bail the next day to receive treatment for injuries sustained in an unspecified incident and was taken back into custody upon his discharge from hospital.

The man’s involvement in the other two robberies had emerged during the police investigation, said the inspector, adding that the defendant had replied to questions about the offences during his interrogation.

The defendant, who told the court he was a barber and resided in Gozo, pleaded not guilty to the charges. Bail was requested by lawyer Beppe Darmanin, defence counsel.

Inspector Zammit objected to bail, pointing out that there were a number of civilian witnesses who had not yet testified, including eyewitnesses, the person allegedly wounded, as well as other potential witnesses. Investigations into that incident are still ongoing, added the inspector.

He also argued against the man’s release due to the gravity of the charges and the fact that he had physically harmed one of the victims.
Although the defendant was now seeking treatment, he also had a strong drug problem, said the inspector. “He told us himself that sometimes he did these things because he ended up with his back to the wall and could not sustain his drug habit.” 

He was also residing at different addresses than those he had specified in his bail conditions and could therefore not be trusted.

The defence lawyer told the court that his client had tried to follow the previous bail conditions, but said his particular circumstances did not allow him to abide by them.

The defendant was, however, willing to undergo treatment for drug addiction, submitted the lawyer. Magistrate Caruana pointed out that if placed under such an order, any failure to comply with it would be a separate crime in and of itself.

The defendant told the court he would comply with any treatment order imposed by the court. “I am tired. I’m 24 years old, and have been in and out of prison since I was a boy. I have a daughter now. I recognise that I made a mistake and I apologise.”

The court denied the man bail, but ordered the prosecution to summon its civilian witnesses to testify as quickly as possible. 

After the accused once again affirmed his readiness to address his substance abuse problems, the court also imposed a one-year treatment order, during which time the defendant would be under the watchful eye of a probation officer. Failure to comply with the treatment order would render him liable to a €1,160 fine, warned the magistrate.

At the end of the sitting, the defendant’s lawyer asked for a ban on the publication of the defendant’s name, for sensitive reasons which cannot be publicly disclosed. The request was not opposed by the prosecution and subsequently upheld by the court