Updated | Daniel Holmes gets €7,000 for ‘unfair trial’, drug laws ‘unconstitutional’

Welshman on 10-year prison term gets €7,000 for breach of right to fair trial during criminal proceedings. 

Daniel Holmes
Daniel Holmes

Welshman Daniel Holmes was this morning granted €7,000 in compensation after a Constitutional court ruled that his “right to fair trial had been breached during his criminal proceedings.”

In his application, Holmes – who is currently serving a 10-and-a-half-year after admitting to cultivating cannabis plants – had argued that he was “discriminated against” because he had received a tougher sentence than others who had larger quantities of drugs.

Moreover, the Welshman claimed that Article 22(1B) of Chapter 101 of the Laws of Malta “breached his right to fair trial because it fails to distinguish between cultivation of cannabis for the purpose of personal use and cultivation to traffic.” In his application, Holmes claimed that this left the parameters of punishment very wide – ranging from six months in jail to life imprisonment.

The claim was upheld by Judge Anthony Ellul who stated that the said article was “unconstitutional”, but nevertheless held that Holmes’ rights were not breached because he admitted to cultivating cannabis to traffic.

The case dates back to June 2006 when a search in Holmes’s Gozo apartment yielded around one kilogram of dried cannabis leaves and 0.24 of cannabis resin. In November 2011, Holmes admitted to five charges of drug possession and trafficking – four of which carried a life sentence – and was jailed for 10 years and fined €23,000 fine, after facing five charges of drug possession and trafficking, four of which carried a life sentence, related to the discovery of a cannabis plant in his Gozo home.

Holmes admitted to all charges ahead of a trial by jury, but has insisted that the drugs were for his personal use.

In his statement to the police, Holmes had claimed Barry Lee was an accomplice and that he had taken responsibility of what was found at his residence. Lee committed suicide in prison in 2008.

Although a legal aid lawyer represented him during the criminal proceedings, Holmes nevertheless argued that his constitutional rights were breached because he had no choice of lawyer. Conversely, he said, legal aid lawyers worked on a roster basis so a team of 10 legal aid lawyers would be given cases according to who was next in line.

Holmes also argued that he was discriminated against on account of the Attorney General’s discretion to decide whether an accused should be tried before a magistrate or face a trial – a decision that could make a big difference in the maximum sentence that could be handed.

Moreover, the Welshman had also stated that the  “excessive court delays” infringed his right to fair trial – a claim upheld by Mr Justice Anthony Ellul, who ruled that it was “intolerable” for the compilation of evidence to take seven years.

In its decree handed down this morning, the Constitutional Court, presided by Mr Justice Anthony Ellul, granted Holmes € €7,000 in compensation for breach to fair trial.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Michela Spiteri were defence counsel.