Disabled pensioner jailed for not paying alimony claims human rights breach

Man sentences to 17 months imprisonment for his repeated failures to pay monthly alimony to his estranged wife due to financial problems, files human rights case claiming he has been handed a disproportionate punishment

Court (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Court (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

A man who was sentenced to a total of 17 months in prison for his repeated failures to pay monthly alimony to his estranged wife as a result of financial problems, filed a human rights case, claiming to have been handed a disproportionate punishment.

Pensioner Mario Bartolo, 67, made the claim in an application filed this week before the First Hall of the Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction against the State Advocate and the Attorney General, in which he claimed that he was being subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment, as well as discrimination, as a result of the custodial sentence.

Bartolo told the court that his estranged wife, from whom he was legally separated, had filed criminal complaints against him over €466 in unpaid alimony, which had led to criminal proceedings before two different magistrates. He was jailed for a total of 17 months.

The two judgments ordering his imprisonment were currently pending appeal.

The man had been gainfully employed in 2010, when the separation contract was signed, but now he was a pensioner and was seriously ill and unable to work, having had some of his toes amputated, said the lawyers.

But in the meantime, Bartolo said, his ex-wife would regularly file criminal complaints, which had led to a number of pending proceedings for failing to pay alimony. A request for mediation he had made to the family court was also pending, he said.

The man’s lawyers Jose’ Herrera, David Camilleri and Martina Herrera, argue that the prison sentences are disproportionate and did not take into consideration the man’s changed circumstances.

He was also suffering discrimination because all of the alimony cases were being treated separately despite being clearly linked, meaning that he could not benefit from a provision in the law that would group all the cases together as a single continuous offence, liable to a lesser punishment.