Man accused of Black Gold shooting last November, granted bail

Accused in Black Gold shooting granted bail by court

File photo
File photo

The man charged in connection with a shooting at a bar in Gzira last November has been released on bail, after his lawyer pointed out that he had satisfied all the prerequisites which had been set out by the Criminal Court.

The compilation of evidence against Christopher Philip Agius, 32, from Paola continued before magistrate Kevan Azzopardi on Wednesday.

Prosecutors Darlene Grima and Etienne Savona from the Office of the Attorney General, assisting police inspectors Wayne Camilleri and Michael Vella, have charged Agius with inflicting grievous bodily harm to the victim, threatening him with a firearm, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime against a person, carrying a firearm in public without a licence, failing to inform the police that he had come into possession of an unregistered firearm and breaching the peace. He is denying the charges.

First to testify when the case continued on Wednesday morning, was a police sergeant stationed at Sliema. He told the court that he had received a phone call from the orderly officer at around 1:30am that day, informing him that a person had been wounded in a shooting near the Black Gold Saloon. Police officers arriving at the scene had found a person writhing on the ground with a gunshot wound to his calf, repeating the words “Black Gold, Black Gold.”

The barman at the Black Gold Saloon had told the officers that the victim and the defendant had been involved in an argument before being ejected from the premises, said the sergeant, adding that the barman had also reported hearing what sounded like a gunshot coming from outside.

A security guard who had been working the door at the bar had confirmed to officers that he had seen a firearm being brandished, at which point he had retreated indoors.

When the witness concluded his testimony, defence lawyer Arthur Azzopardi pointed out to the court that the situation with regards to Agius’ arrest had now improved his prospects of bail, as the three civilian witnesses to the shooting had all testified. The court was also in possession of footage of the entire incident, he said. “So, there is no risk of tampering with evidence because we have footage showing what happened before, during and after the incident.”

The lawyer also highlighted the fact that Agius was unlikely to abscond as he had a good relationship with his ex-partner, with whom he also has a child, stressing that Agius’ mother-in-law had, entirely of her own accord, implored the criminal court to grant him bail.

He was on probation, in steady employment, and a potential third-party guarantor who he referred to as his adoptive father was in the courtroom to guarantee Agius’ compliance with any bail conditions imposed.  “We ticked all the boxes,” said the lawyer. “Chris is eligible for bail because every requirement that the Criminal Court demanded has now been satisfied.”

Prosecutor Etienne Savona objected to the bail application, telling the court that it also had to see the crimes Agius was accused of, in the context of his past drug problem. “His criminal record is what it is. Society’s interest had to be protected - here we are dealing with a shooting… in a public space,” he argued.

But Azzopardi retorted that this argument could only apply had there not already been two decrees, declaring him eligible for bail. “He has been clean for 10 years and we have the testimony of RISE and other agencies as evidence of this.”

The man referred to as Agius’ adoptive father was called in. He was a pensioner, he said, when asked about his work status by the court. Magistrate Azzopardi stressed to the man that he would have to inform the prosecution should Agius ever stop complying with his bail conditions. The man accepted this responsibility.

Bail was granted, secured by a €5,000 deposit and a €25,000 personal guarantee, with the defendant also being ordered to observe a curfew from 7pm to 7am every day “to keep temptation at arm’s length.”

The Court reminded Agius that he had a family to support. “Keep away from bad company, because that will lead you astray,” warned the magistrate.

The compilation of evidence was adjourned to April.