Judge shows Gozo stabber no mercy for ‘cowardly life of violence’

Seven years’ jail for Gozitan convicted of grievously injuring another man, and slightly injuring a lawyer during a stabbing inside a Gozo courtroom

Judge Michael Mallia said Cefai was to be shown no mercy after “embarking on a cowardly life of violence”. Photo: Ray Attard
Judge Michael Mallia said Cefai was to be shown no mercy after “embarking on a cowardly life of violence”. Photo: Ray Attard

Pasqualino Cefai has been jailed for a total of seven years, over the violent assault which let to his fellow Gozitan being grievously injured in a Gozo courtroom in 2012.

Mr Justice Michael Mallia said that Cefai had embarked on a criminal life since he turned 16, being charged in court on average every two years.

“Later, when he turned 21 he started terrorising Gozo, embracing a life of bullying, violence and aggression. His fists became the solution to solve everything,” the judge said.

Mallia said that while previous courts always treated him lightly, in the hope that he would change his ways, Cefai had “persisted in his life of violence”.

“When he chose to seek medical help for depression, he still did not stop the aggression. Moreover he decided to stop medication himself, which does not justify his mental state during the aggression. Portelli had already fell victim to him once before. He kept seeking a cowardly solution to his financial problems.”

The judge said that while the verdict delivered by the jury could not be ignored or changed – having absolved him of attempted murder – he could not ignore Cefai’s total disregard to law and order.

Praising the introduction of the right to disclosure and the right of the accused to be assisted legally from the start of investigations, Judge Mallia commented that it would only provide a well balanced act if the jurors are also aware of the kind of person they were judging. “They should be presented with a copy of his police record to realise what his character is made of. Such procedure has already been introduced in England – a country known for its conservative application of law”.

“The court believes Cefai deserves the maximum penalty permissible at law and has no right to be shown any mercy. This mirrors his behaviour when he showed no mercy with his victims,” Mallia said.

Pasqualino Cefai was handed a total of seven years’ imprisonment – five years for the aggression and injuring Portelli and Mompalao, an additional six months for breaching bail and the seizure of the bail deposit and personal guarantee. The judge also brought into effect an 18-month suspended jail term, Cefai had been handed on 25 April 2012. The convicted was ordered to pay €6,000 in court expenses.

The trial by jury of the 34-year-old man from Zebbug, Gozo was concluded on Friday but the court heard submissions for sentencing on Monday. Reading out judgement, Mr Justice Michael Mallia today re-read the verdict which, with six votes against three, Cefai was acquitted of the attempted murder of Joseph Portelli inside a Gozo courtroom.

But with the same vote, jurors found him guilty of grievously injuring Portelli and causing slight injuries to lawyer Kevin Mompalao. The Gozitan was also convicted of other charges including breaching bail, carrying an unlicensed penknife and relapsing.

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 the last sitting, the mother of the convicted man informed the court that the family had settled Pasqualino Cefai’s debts with Portelli.

Attorney General’s lawyers Lara Lanfranco, Gianella Buttigieg and Vinciene Vella prosecuted, while Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo appeared for Cefai.