Accused in courtroom stabbing to be sentenced Wednesday

Man convicted of grievously injuring creditor in court was under psychiatric care • debt was paid by relatives the day after the jury concluded.

The family of the man convicted of stabbing his creditor in a Gozo courtroom, has settled an outstanding balance of almost €12,000 in debts, Therese Cefai, the mother of accused Pasqualino Cefai told a court.

She took the witness stand during the final submissions prior to sentencing, where she informed the court that she had paid Dr Joshua Grech, for the money to be passed over to Dr Kevin Mompalao. “We’ve paid €12,000 and there’s only a balance of €666 left,” Therese Cefai said.

After the trial by jury of 34-year-old Pasqualino Cefai came to an end last Friday, Mr Justice Michael Mallia today heard submissions relating to the final sentence. With six votes against three, Cefai was acquitted of the attempted murder of Joseph Portelli inside a Gozo courtroom but jurors found him guilty of grievously injuring Portelli. He was cleared of causing grievous injuries to lawyer Kevin Mompalao, but convicted of causing slight injuries to the lawyer.

Cefai was also convicted of other four charges including breaching bail and carrying an unlicensed penknife. 

The incident goes back to 6 June 2012 when Cefai stabbed Portelli 15 times during a hearing in the courtroom of Magistrate Josette Demicoli. The two were at loggerheads over debt Cefai had with Portelli. The latter filed for a warrant requisitioning two of Cefai’s trucks. When Cefai heard that Portelli intended to seize two trucks, allegedly used by his wife to sell detergents, he flew into a rage and was kicked out of court.

Seconds later he returned and attacked Portelli with a penknife. Of the 15 stab wounds, one punctured Portelli’s kidney and the other his abdomen. He also suffered a collapsed lung.

In today’s sitting, psychiatrist Anthon Grech told the court that he had treated the accused for depression. “I met him for at least five sessions and treated him accordingly,” the doctor said, explaining that the medication and treatment had started before the incident in 2012.

In her submissions, prosecutor Lara Lanfranco argued that it was irrelevant that the debt had been settled. “If a person refrains from taking his medication and commits an offence, it does not excuse his behaviour. In this vicious attack, the victim suffered 14 stab wounds – an attack which could have claimed his life,” the prosecutor said. She said that ten years earlier, the accused had already assaulted Portelli and injured him.

She said Cefai should be convicted with the maximum penalty at law.

However defence lawyer Edward Gatt rebutted the prosecution’s arguments, claiming his client was a sick man. “We’re judging a man who was under psychiatric care,” the lawyer said. Moreover, in view of the charge of breaching bail, Dr Gatt appealed to the court to refrain from imposing penalties which would have a negative financial impact on the family of the convicted.

Mr Justice Michael Mallia will deliver sentence on 18 June. Cefai will be detained at the prisons.