Man acquitted of drug possession

Court acquits man charged with being in possession of cocaine, ruling that the accused was always consistent in denying his involvement and the court has no reason to doubt his words

Paul Vassallo, 32 of Msida was today acquitted of drug possession after court finds no reason to doubt his innocent plea.

On 25 July 2009, officers from the Drug Squad carried out a spot check during a party held at MFCC, in Ta’ Qali.

Officers searched the toilets and were also stopping and searching people suspected of having abused drugs, or being on possession of same. The accused was apprehended after an officer noted him throwing away a sachet containing brown powder.

Prosecuting officer Jesmond Borg, charged Vassallo with having in his possession the drug cocaine. Vassallo was also charged with relapsing but the accused denied the sachet was his and pleaded not guilty.

From the witness stand, Inspector Borg explained he was present at the party; however he denied apprehending Borg.

“I would only meet those who are arrested. Before entering, the party patrons are searched at random. If drugs are found the carrier is arrested”, he said.

The witness recalled how Vassallo had always denied the sachet was his but could not remember the accused insisting on having tests done on him. The inspector confirmed that the sachet was not sent for fingerprint tests.

In the sitting of 21 November 2011, Superintendant Norbert Ciappara told the court that officers keep records of those who are stopped and searched, but at times when there are long queues the records are not kept.

This was corroborated by PS Frans Schembri who said that the name of the accused was not on his records.

“This does not mean that he was not checked, because if he came in during a rush hour his details would not have been noted”, the police sergeant said.

Police Constable Alan Cutajar, the officer who arrested the accused was next on the witness stand. He said he searched Vassallo after he noted him throwing something from his back pocket.

The search resulted in the negative; however a sachet containing brown powder was found on the floor. The officer said that the accused always denied the sachet was his. In cross examination, PC Cutajar could not recall if the sachet was found inside the toilets or outside, yet confirmed that he had not seen the accused throwing the sachet but simply throwing something out of his pocket.

Paul Vassallo, the accused himself told the court that he had gone into the men’s toilets with his girlfriend who was sick. When they went out, he was stopped by the police but nothing was found in his possession.

On the floor, outside the toilets the police found a sachet containing brown powder and implied it was his. Vassallo insisted that he does not abuse any sort of drugs.

Court expert Mario Mifsud explained that the brown powder inside the sachet was cocaine drug.

Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras said that the court was faced with two different versions – the police claiming they saw the accused throw something to the ground, while the accused insists the sachet was not his.

The court ruled that the version given by Vassallo on site, his statements and his evidence in court were all consistent. This was also corroborated by his girlfriend.

Commenting that the court has no reason to doubt the accused’s words, Magistrate Galea Sciberras acquitted Paul Vassallo of all charges.

Lawyers Andy Ellul and Vince Micallef appeared for Vassallo.