Accused claim preferential treatment in illegal fireworks case

Three of 12 men charged over the illegal storage of fireworks at the Naxxar Band Club have filed a constitutional application claiming their rights were violated.

The Naxxar Peace Band Club was found to have been storing illegal fireworks in 2008. Photo: Gilbert Calleja
The Naxxar Peace Band Club was found to have been storing illegal fireworks in 2008. Photo: Gilbert Calleja

Ivan Gauci, David Sammut and Joseph Buhagiar filed a Constitutional application arguing that the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police had violated their right to a fair trial, when an agreement was reached with seven of 12 persons arraigned over illegal fireworks kept at the Peace Band Club, in Naxxar, to face different charges.

On 12 March 2008, an explosion in Hal Dghejf Street, Naxxar reduced three houses to rubble and claimed the lives of two people, one of whom was suspected to have been working on fireworks inside his garage.

On 3 May 2008, a police raid at the Peace Band Club uncovered a large cache of fireworks in the building’s basement, metres away from a petrol station in Naxxar’s main square. The entire band committee - 11 men and one woman - were taken to court.

All were charged with illegally keeping explosives and fireworks, without any safety measures, in a public place and without a licence. They were also charged with ignoring club regulations. However, during the proceedings, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Police and the defence counsels of seven of the 11 accused agreed that the seven would only answer to a single charge.

Ivan Gauci, David Sammut and Joseph Buhagiar yesterday filed a constitutional case, arguing that such an agreement violated their rights due to preferential treatment. Quoting case law, the three said that the concept of unfettered discretion should not exist as a public right in a democratic country.

“Discretion means when something is to be done within the discretion of the authorities that that something is to be done according to the rules of reason and justice, not according to private opinion: … according to law, and not humour. It is to be not arbitrary and vague but legal and regular,” the application read.

The lawyers of the three applicants argued that in a system based on the rule of law, unfettered governmental discretion is a contradiction in terms.

The three applicants demanded that the Constitutional Court declares that the actions of the AG and the Commissioner of Police violated their rights. They also requested that the Court rules over their legal proceedings to ensure that justice is delivered equally.

Lawyers Jason Grima and Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, together with PL Daniel Aquilina signed the Cosntitutional Application.

More in Court & Police