Appeals court suspends prison sentence handed to European Commissioner's son for drug trafficking

Three month prison sentence handed to Jean Marc Dalli for trafficking ecstasy by sharing was suspended on appeal, on account of his good behaviour, having never failed a drugs test in the ten years since his arrest.

Jean-Marc Dalli (left) with Helena Dalli and his father, Patrick
Jean-Marc Dalli (left) with Helena Dalli and his father, Patrick

A prison sentence for drug trafficking handed to one of European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli’s sons, three years ago, has been suspended after a judge partially upheld his appeal.

In 2021, Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras had sentenced Jean Marc Dalli, then 25 years old, to imprisonment for three months and the payment of a €650 fine, for having trafficked drugs at a party, ten years prior.

Dalli had been caught red-handed handing over six ecstasy pills to another man outside a party being held at the old prisons in Corradino in September 2013.

A police officer had testified to having witnessed Dalli handing over a suspicious-looking paper bag, which prompted officers to move in and arrest the three people involved: Jean Marc Dalli, Dwight Falzon and Gabrielle Tonna. Six pills were found in Falzon’s possession and a further three in Tonna’s. No drugs had been found in Dalli's possession.

Dalli had told the police that he had bought the drugs from a certain Cedric Zammit for his friend Dwight Falzon, and had passed them on to the same. In sworn testimony before the inquiring magistrate, Dalli said Falzon had handed him €60, the same amount of money that Dalli had paid Zammit for the drugs.

“As soon as I handed these six pills to Dwight I was arrested by the police,” Dalli had told the magistrate.

In a judgement delivered on Friday, the Court of Criminal Appeal, presided by Madame Justice Edwina Grima, noted that Dalli’s conviction had been based on the contents of his statement, which he had later confirmed on oath before the inquiring magistrate, as well as other evidence.

The judge said that although she agreed with the Court of Magistrate’s observation that the prosecution ought to have also summonsed Falzon and Tonna as witnesses to confirm Dalli’s account, on the other hand, the evidence already compiled showed that Dalli had procured the drugs for Falzon, who had then reimbursed him.
 “As previously said, the appellant made no profit from that exchange and that the aim behind the appellant’s actions had been to acquire this restricted psychotropic medicine for Falzon in order to be consumed during the party.”

This constituted the lesser offence of “trafficking by sharing,” first introduced in 2006, which carried a lesser punishment, said the court, also observing that the amount of drugs involved was minimal and that Dalli had no criminal record, neither at the time of his arrest, nor in the ten years since.

The judge said that although in his youth, Dalli would consume illicit substances at social events, he was not an addict and had never failed a drugs test while on bail. A social inquiry report had concluded that Dalli had a strong social support network, a job he liked and a happy relationship with the mother of his child, the court further noted.

In view of all this, the judge utilised a proviso in the Medical and Kindred Professions Ordinance, which allows a court to impose a non-custodial sentence if it “is of the opinion that the offender intended to consume the drug on the spot with others.”

Confirming the finding of Dalli’s guilt - but only with respect to the night of his arrest, and not the days and month before it - the judge ordered that the 3 month prison sentence he was handed by the Court of Magistrates be suspended for one year, while confirming the €650 fine, payable in instalments.

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