Man charged with assault claims he was carrying out citizen’s arrest

Man arraigned on charges of assaulting and threatening a couple in Ħamrun had been ‘carrying out a citizen’s arrest’ to stop a drug deal, according to his lawyer

File photo
File photo

A man arraigned on charges of assaulting and threatening a couple in Ħamrun had been “carrying out a citizen’s arrest” to stop a drug deal, according to his lawyer.

Antoine Monsigneur, 52, from Ħamrun appeared in the dock before magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo on Tuesday, accused of slightly injuring a man and causing both him and a woman to fear they would suffer violence.

Monsigneur, whose list of prior convictions is reportedly over 30 pages long, was also accused of attacking the pair and insulting them.

Inspector Ian Vella, prosecuting, also pressed charges relating to sending threats and misuse of electronic communications networks, together with a charge of failing to return an out-of-date ID card. The defendant was also accused of recidivism.

Inspector Vella exhibited two ID cards found in Monsigneur's possession.

A not guilty plea was entered.

Defence lawyer Jose Herrera, representing Monsigneur together with lawyer Matthew Xuereb, requested bail.

The prosecution objected to the request, pointing out that the victims had not yet testified and the fact that the defendant had been out on three concurrent sets of police bail conditions at the time of his latest arrest.

Herrera told the court that the incident had come about when Monsigneur had noticed drug deals happening not far from the detox centre in Ħamrun, claiming that after several reports that he made were ignored by the police, he had “felt the need to carry out a citizen’s arrest” because “he couldn’t bear to see it happening, right next to a police station.”

Monsigneur had struggled with drug addiction in the past, he said.

“If true, his actions are laudable,” was the lawyer’s improbable suggestion, made all the more audacious by the fact that a citizen’s arrest can only be carried out in the scenarios expressly laid out in the Criminal Code - namely “sexual offences, any crime of wilful homicide or bodily harm, or any crime of theft or of wilful unlawful entry or damage to property” - and which do not include drug offences.

Monsigneur is also understood to have uploaded a video on Tiktok showing him insulting the victims.

The charge of causing slight injury required a criminal complaint by the injured party which was absent in this case, added Herrera.

“He is presumed innocent, [so if denied bail] he is going to be held in prison on the grounds of a faulty charge and a small offence,” submitted the lawyer.

The court rejected the bail request, pointing to the man’s character as reflected by his long criminal record and the risk of tampering with evidence.