Motorist accused of cyclist’s death had human rights breached during interrogation

The Constitutional Court held that Anthony Taliana, accused of the involuntary homicide of cyclist Clifford Micallef in 2009, suffered a breach of his rights during his interrogation

The Constitutional Court has held that the man accused the involuntary homicide of cyclist Clifford Micallef on the Coast Road in July 2009 suffered a breach of his human rights during his interrogation by the police.

The court decided that the statement by Anthony Taliana, who was 21 at the time, was a "vulnerable person" when he was interrogated by the police in the absence of a lawyer, adding that the fact that he may have been under the influence of alcohol at the time only served to compound this vulnerability.

The 26-year-old Ħamrun resident is charged with involuntary homicide of Micallef, drink-driving, driving a car without insurance cover and relapsing as he had previous convictions for dangerous driving.

Taliana was at the wheel when his car hit the cyclist on the Coast Road in the early hours of July 30, 2009. Micallef died on impact.

Taliana had taken his case to the Constitutional Court on the strength of the fact that he had no legal assistance during interrogation, arguing that this rendered his statement to the police null and this, together with three reports by court experts based on his statement, ought to be excised from the court file.

A previous ruling by the First Hall of the Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction had decided against Taliana, observing that he was arrogant during the interrogation and had not felt intimidated by the investigating police officers.

It had held that he had received several cautions before his statement was taken and felt it to be clear that the statement was not made under duress.

Today’s judgment overturned that ruling however. The Constitutional Court in its superior jurisdiction, composed of Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri and Judges Giannino Caruana Demajo and Noel Cuschieri, upheld Taliana's case, holding that he was a vulnerable person during his interrogation as he had not consulted his lawyer and had no experience of police interrogations. 

Despite this, the court did not order the removal of his statement from the case file, instead ordering that the statement could only be used to corroborate other evidence. Likewise, the court experts' reports, which were also based on Taliana’s deposition, could not be used as standalone evidence.

The compilation of evidence against Taliana may now continue. 

Lawyers Michael and Lucio Sciriha, Patrick Galea and Franco Galea appeared for Taliana.