Four youths arrested after police discover drugs, illegal weapons in their car

Roadblock leads police to arrest four Maltese youths after finding white powder, brass knuckles and torch-tasers in their car

Four Maltese youths appeared in court under arrest on Wednesday, after they were found to be carrying drugs and illegal weapons when their car was stopped at a police roadblock

25-year-old Sheridan Lee Grech from Bormla, 24-year-old nail technician in-training Nicole Micallef from Msida and 20-year-old print shop worker Mattheas Borg from Luqa were arraigned before Magistrate Charmaine Galea.

Borg’s 14 year-old girlfriend, who had also been in the car at the time, was also arrested and charged.

All four were charged with being in possession of cocaine and heroin in circumstances which indicated it was not for personal use.

Grech was further accused of being in possession of more cocaine and heroin which was found on his person while at the Marsa police station. He was also charged with illegally carrying pepper spray, breaching bail and recidivism.

Borg alone was further charged with possession of brass knuckles and a stun gun, with Micallef also being charged with carrying a stun gun and recidivism.

The defendants all entered not guilty pleas and requested bail, with the prosecution objecting,  due to the serious nature of the offences that the defendants were being charged with.

Inspector Kathleen Zerafa told the court that the four individuals standing in the dock had been arrested on Monday, after police officers manning a roadblock in Marsa had stopped their car because it had no number plates.

A transparent plastic bag was found in the car, said the inspector, containing 41 small sachets of white powder. The people in the car were immediately arrested and searched.

Borg was found to be carrying brass knuckles and a torch-taser. Another torch taser was found in Micallef’s possession. More sachets of suspected drugs were found inside the suspects’ clothing.

Asked by the defence whether the suspects had all been given the same rights, the inspector replied that they had, but the minor’s mother had also been informed and told to come to the police station to accompany her daughter.

Lawyer Matthew Xuereb, assisting the 14-year-old girl, asked whether anything illegal had been found in her possession. The bag of drugs was found on the seat where she had been sitting, said the inspector, but nothing was found on her person. “

Did you inform her that she was suspected of aggravated possession?” asked the lawyer, to which inspector Zerafa replied that she had definitely been told about possession but was not sure whether aggravated possession had been mentioned at that stage.

Xuereb asked whether his client had been strip searched. Strip searches were a standard operating procedure, done whenever someone is taken to the lockup under arrest, replied the inspector. “She was strip-searched, always with her mother present.” 

The lawyer pointed out that the girl was only 14 years old and asked whether an individual evaluation had been carried out. “The mother’s presence is enough,” replied the inspector. “And everything took place in the presence of the mother.”

Inspector Mark Cremona, who is also prosecuting, added that he had already explained to the lawyer that a strip search had to take place after every arrest. “Doesn’t mean it is correct,” Xuereb replied, before moving on to ask the police inspectors why they “had to resort to arresting the 14 year old.”

“We found nearly 100 sachets of drugs in the car. We had to investigate, we couldn’t simply assume that she was not involved simply because of her age… We also found sufficient evidence to justify charging her.”

The 14-year-old girl was not enrolled at any school, added the inspector, remarking that she had also, without prompting, exercised her right to silence during her interrogation, which was unusual amongst her age group.

Lawyer Shaun Zammit, assisting Micallef, submitted that his client had cooperated with the police and told them that she had nothing to do with the drugs.

Zammit argued that his client was 24 years old, was currently following a course to become a nail technician and was already being followed by a probation officer. All drug tests had returned negative results, he added .

Lawyer Jacob Magri, who is representing both Grech and Borg, added that all the relevant evidence had already been preserved in the magisterial inquiry.

Besides this, the four defendants were effectively co-accused and so their testimony could not be used against each other, pointed out the lawyer, explaining that his meant that no tampering with evidence could happen.

Borg had been arrested at the “tender age of 20” and had a clean criminal record, said the lawyer, arguing that no risks to the evidence existed at this stage.

Inspector Zerafa objected to the bail request, stressing that it was clear that the amount of sachets containing different drugs showed that it was not intended for personal use. Sheridan, in particular, had already been accused of similar crimes, as was Borg.

The inspector pointed out that Borg was also 20 years old, pointedly observing that “age only seems to be ‘tender’ when it suits you.”

Inspector Cremona argued that the drugs had been found in the car where a minor had been present. “The minor told the police that she doesn’t go to school because she is not allowed to smoke there,” added Inspector Zerafa.

Magri submitted that Grech’s previous convictions had only been for minor offences. However, a search of the court’s online database shows Grech, who told the court today that he was unemployed, had previously been placed on probation for two years and fined €400 last October, upon conviction for threatening his ex-partner. He had also been handed a treatment order to address his problems with anger management and drug abuse.

Before that he had been convicted of several offences after colliding with another car while driving drunk. That conviction had been appealed because the court of magistrates had not mentioned the articles of the law that he was being found guilty of in the correct part of that judgement, and a retrial was ordered. His retrial ended in an acquittal because the prosecution failed to exhibit both the breathalyser report and the original incident report drawn up by the officers at the scene.

The court denied bail to the three adult defendants and remanded them in custody. The 14 year-old girl was released from arrest against a €5,000 personal guarantee and was ordered to sign a bail book twice a week.

Lawyer Jacob Magri assisted Grech and Borg. Lawyer Shaun Zammit represented Micallef. Lawyer Matthew Xuereb assisted the 14-year-old.