Alleged trafficker fails in ‘unfair trial’ constitutional challenge

Accused of being in possession of 40 and 50 grammes of heroin

A constitutional application calling on a court to discard evidence given by a witness and used to incriminate a man accused of heroin possession has been turned down by the court which ruled that the claim must be filed by the witness himself – and not by the third party

Renald Baldacchino argued that in using the police statement of Angelo Cassar during his proceedings, the court was violating his right to a fair trial, because the witness himself was not afforded the right to legal representation during police interrogation.

34-year-old Baldacchino was accused of being in possession of between 40 and 50 grammes of heroin in 2004. His case is ongoing and the evidence being used against him is a police statement given by Angelo Cassar during the latter’s arrest.

Counsel Giannella de Marco, for Baldacchino, argued that the rule precluding a police statement given without legal representation from being used against an accused should be extended when such a witness is used to incriminate other persons.

Consequently, Baldacchino claimed that the evidence should not be admissible before the courts.

Describing the application as “frivolous and unsustainable”, the Attorney General argued that the right to a fair trial does not extend to allegations occurring prior to the commencement of a trial.

In its decree, the First Hall of the Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction, dismissed Baldacchino’s claim, ruling that the witness’s police statement was confirmed on oath and counter-examined by the defence.

Fundamentally however, the court dismissed the plea on the basis that the witness himself did not complain of any breach of human rights. In addition, Cassar did not dispute the validity of the evidence when the same police statement was used to incriminate him.

Moreover, the court held that criminal proceedings against Baldacchino are ongoing, thus enabling his defence to counter-examine the witness’s evidence again.

The court dismissed Baldacchino’s claim and ordered him to pay the court costs.