Six youths get bail on brutal carnival knife assault on 16-year-old

Five teenagers and an adult charged with knife assault on a 16-year-old boy are granted bail • Magistrate dismisses police officers' complaint after accused swears at them outside the courtroom 

The defendants were released on bail, which was secured by a personal guarantee of €2,000
The defendants were released on bail, which was secured by a personal guarantee of €2,000

A commotion broke out in a courtroom this morning, after a 20-year-old defendant insulted a police inspector, at the end of a dispiriting arraignment where the duty magistrate appeared dismissive of violent behaviour by a group of minors who were accused of savagely beating a 16-year-old boy.

The group of six youths were released on bail after entering a not guilty plea to charges relating to a brutal assault during the carnival celebrations in Floriana that left a 16-year-old boy with grievous knife wounds to his face and torn ligaments.

Inspectors Daryl Borg, Stephen Gulia and Shaun Pawney, assisted by prosecutor Kenneth Camilleri, arraigned the group of girls aged between 14 and 17, together with a 20 year-old woman and a 14-year-old male, before Magistrate Joe Mifsud on Tuesday, on serious criminal charges which include grievous bodily harm and theft aggravated by violence. 

The defendants are from Gzira, Valletta, Paola and Zurrieq. 

As the arraignment got underway, Magistrate Mifsud imposed a ban on the publication of five of the defendants, as they are minors. 

The only accused old enough to be identified in the press is Aicha Mariah, 20 from Paola, who is additionally charged with aggravated theft, carrying a knife in public without a licence and recidivism.

The magistrate asked Inspector Stephen Gulia to explain why the group was being arraigned under arrest. The inspector told the court that at around 7:00pm on February 10, police officers had been dispatched to respond to a report of an ongoing fight in Floriana.

They found a boy on the ground, with knife wounds to his face and hands, the ligaments to his hands having been torn as a result of the blows he suffered.

The boy told the police that he had been surrounded by around six youths, beaten up and robbed.

He recognised one of his assailants as the male defendant. Further investigations established the identities of the rest of the group. 

The magistrate interrupted the inspector, pointing out that in order for the 14-year-old to be charged the prosecution must prove “mischievous discretion” - effectively full awareness of the evil of the criminal act. “There was, and more than that,” inspector Gulia replied, adding that the boy had also erased the contents of his mobile phone before it was seized by the police.

The magistrate, in what appeared to be an attempt to relieve the tense atmosphere, then asked the 14-year-old which football team he supported. “Juventus,” replied the youth, to laughter in the courtroom, as the magistrate is well-known to be a supporter of the Turin-based team. When some of the defendants told the magistrate that they were not in school, the magistrate urged them to continue their schooling, telling them that they were “still in time.”

When one of the girls, replying to a question from the magistrate, said that she was a student at a respected Church school and would soon start her mock O-Levels, Mifsud told her to sit down, assuring her that she would be walking out of court today.

All of the defendants pleaded not guilty. The defence requested bail.

After brief perfunctory bail submissions, the magistrate declared that he would be releasing the defendants from arrest and would issue a protection order in favour of the victim.

“Fourteen year-olds have no place in prison. One of them is doing her mocks...I understand that they need a telling-off, but not prison,” Mifsud said.

The defendants were released on bail, which was secured by a personal guarantee of €2,000. “If you breach your bail conditions your mother will have to pay €2,000,” the magistrate explained to the defendants. They are also required to observe a curfew between 10:00pm and 6:00am and sign a bail book once a week. 

Next to no details emerged about the actual incident during today’s arraignment, but informed sources told MaltaToday that the group had surrounded a 16-year-old former boyfriend of one of the girls at the gardens near the Malta Memorial in Floriana and assaulted him, with the 20-year-old suspect allegedly holding a knife to the victim’s neck. The attack is believed to have been prompted by an argument.

Outside the courtroom, Mariah swore at Inspector Gulia, who immediately returned to the courtroom to inform the magistrate of this. Mifsud replied that he hadn’t heard it himself.

Inspector Lydon Zammit, who had been observing the arraignment and who happened to be present in the corridor, backed up his colleague and remonstrated with the magistrate, insisting that he had also seen it happen. But for his efforts, Zammit only earned himself an admonition for not being correctly dressed, with the magistrate ordering him to leave the courtroom or be found in contempt of court. “This is my courtroom and I decide!” Mifsud said.

The various defendants are being represented by lawyers Ishmael Psaila, Dunstan Camilleri. Franco Debono, Francesca Zarb and Adriana Zammit.

The compilation of evidence will now continue before the court of magistrates, differently presided.