No bail for man accused of setting fire to former partner’s car in dispute over access to child

Police charged Naxxar man after he allegedly set fire to his ex-partner’s car in connection with a dispute over access to their child

File photo
File photo

The police have charged a man from Naxxar with arson, after he allegedly set fire to his ex-partner’s car in connection with a dispute over access to their child.

Police inspectors Jeffrey Scicluna and Mario Xiberras, assisted by Prosecutor Joseph Camilleri Azarov from the Office of the Attorney General, charged 35-year-old John Joseph Debono with arson, criminal damage, offences against public order and littering in connection with the 3am fire that engulfed the vehicle in Sqaq il-Kubrit, Hamrun on June 6.

Debono was also accused of driving without a licence and six other traffic offences, as well as aggravated harassment of the woman, causing her to fear he would be violent towards her, misuse of electronic telecommunications equipment and misuse of telecommunications equipment. He was also charged with breaching bail and recidivism.

Inspector Xiberras testified that a warrant for Debono’s arrest had been issued following a joint investigation involving the district police and the Arson department. Debono, who was already known to the police, had been recognised from CCTV footage from the time and place where the car was set alight.

The defendant, who said he works as an upholsterer, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Defence lawyer Roberto Spiteri requested bail, asking the inspector whether the injured party was in any way related to the man in the dock.

There was, replied the inspector. The injured party had previously been in a relationship with Debono and was the mother of his child. The defendant had sent the woman an email in May, accusing her of withholding access to the child, ominously ending it “now we’ll see.”

He had also sent multiple TikTok messages to the woman, continuing even after the arson attack.

The defence lawyer suggested that the case against his client was based on documentary evidence, which had already been collected, but Xiberras pointed out that the victim and her father, the owner of the car, were yet to testify. He confirmed that there were no eyewitnesses.

Camilleri Azarov pointed out that if the man were to be released from arrest, there was a risk of tampering with evidence and other offences being committed. He requested the court issue a protection order for the woman.

The police had arrived at the defendant on the basis of footage and messages on social media which are already preserved. The risk that normally leads to bail being withheld - tampering with or destroying evidence - doesn’t apply in this case.

The lawyer conceded that the man had a criminal record but said that it could not be used to prove intent, especially when his last conviction dated back years.

He added that the defendant also had other children, a 13-year-old boy from another mother who had “completely abandoned her son.” “If bail is denied, the only parent taking care of him is going to be behind bars,” submitted the lawyer.

Bail was, however, denied at this stage. The court upheld a request for a protection order in favour of the woman and her family.