Youth fined €2,400 for damaging Castille steps with rental scooter

The 20-year-old youth was seen carrying the scooter up the front steps, posing for the photo and wheeling it down again

A number of the steps leading up to Castille had been chipped by the rental scooter (inset) (Photos: James Bianchi/mediatoday)
A number of the steps leading up to Castille had been chipped by the rental scooter (inset) (Photos: James Bianchi/mediatoday)

A namesake of the former Prince of Naples had a decidedly inauspicious encounter with the Maltese justice system this morning, after admitting to having damaged the steps of the Auberge De Castille in Valletta on Saturday night.

Vittorio Emanuele Savoia, a 20-year-old student from Crotone, in Italy, was arraigned before magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech on Monday, accused of, wilfully or negligently damaging eight of the marble steps leading up to the historic building which today houses the Office of the Prime Minister.

Police Inspector Gabriel Micallef, who prosecuted together with Inspector Kevin Pulis and assisted by lawyers Ramon Bonett Sladden and Nicholas de Gaetano from the Attorney General’s Office, told the court how on night of September 9, police officers on guard outside the Auberge de Castille had observed the defendant arriving on a scooter which he then carried up the marble stairs leading to the entrance, to pose for a photograph.

A number of the steps had been chipped by the scooter, said the Inspector.

The police tracked Savoia down through the scooter rental, he said. The defendant turned himself in voluntarily after being informed that the police were looking for him.

CCTV from Castille showed the defendant carrying the scooter up the front steps, posing for the photo and wheeling it down again. “At no point is he seen riding it, and the defendant had not realised that he had caused any damage,” explained the inspector.

The cost of repairing the damage was subsequently established at €400, he said.

The Magistrate pointed out to the prosecution that the charges spoke of an amount in excess of €1,000.

Prosecutor Ramon Bonett Sladden explained that the charges were issued at a time when the damages were estimated to be in excess of €1,000, but confirmed that the actual amount had subsequently been established to be €400.

Magistrate Frendo Dimech admonished the lawyer for being imprecise. “When there is the liberty of a person at stake, there must be more circumspection and great discernment before issuing charges. The police are saying that there is negligence and the charges should reflect this, otherwise you are misleading the court and doing an injustice to the defendant and the prestigious office which you are representing.”

Bonett Sladden denied misleading the court and replied that the footage showed the defendant going up the steps of Castille “without needing to.”

While going down the same steps, the man had caused damage which was foreseeable and preventable. “We brought [Superintendent of Cultural Heritage Kurt] Farrugia here today to testify about this,” he added.

The prosecution recommended a minimum sentence together with a fine.

Calleja rebutted the AG’s allegation, telling the court that there was “absolutely no intention to cause damage.”

“It was an accident that happened as he was going down the steps. Unfortunately, it happened at Castille,” said the lawyer, adding that the defendant was prepared to pay for the damage he had caused.

When the sitting resumed in the afternoon, Inspector Kevin Pulis informed the court that the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage had received €400 from the defendant which covered all the damage caused.

Noting that the first two charges were subsumed, the court sentenced Savoia to one year of imprisonment, suspended for one year.

In addition to the payment of €400 to the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, he was slapped with a €2,000 fine which must be paid before he leaves the island. A group of the man’s friends were waiting outside the courtroom to pay the fine.