No sufficient grounds for Darryl Luke Borg's 'wrongful arrest', inquiry report says

Internal inquiry report blames two CID officers for wrongful arrest of Darryl Luke Borg, recommends disciplinary measures.

A damning inquiry into the wrongful arrest of an innocent man has revealed that two members of the Criminal Investigation Department were to blame, and that the prosecution's main evidence - that of Darryl Luke Borg having a ‘similar hairstyle’ to the actual perpetrator - was not sufficient to arraign a person in court. 

Published more than 18 months after it was concluded, the internal inquiry recommends that disciplinary measures be taken against two members the CID department who had arraigned Borg, while in addition, it also highlighted that a severe lack of miscommunication between investigators was to blame for Borg’s wrongful arrest.

The incident dates back to August 2013 when Darryl Luke Borg, 27, of Birkirkara, had been charged with carrying out an armed robbery at a convenience store in Birkirkara. Borg was arraigned on August 7 and was held under preventive custody for two days - in spite of CCTV footage showing a “considerable” difference in the height of Borg and the actual robber.

On August 9, five days after the hold-up took place, Roderick Grech, - the correct perpetrator - admitted to carrying out the armed robbery. Hours later, Borg was released on bail before a magistrate exonerated him of all the charges on August 12.

Borg’s wrongful arrest led to a political backlash, while a police board report blamed district inspector Elton Taliana for the blunder – a report which was described as a “travesty of justice” by shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi.

According to the inquiry report, Inspector Joseph Mercieca was initially “not convinced” by the CCTV footage but changed his tack after noticing that Borg had a ‘similar hairstyle’ to that of the actual perpetrator.

“Even though, the Board understands the reasons why Borg was arrested and interrogated, it did not find sufficient grounds for Borg to be charged with the hold-up or to be denied bail,” the report held.

The Board said that the main proof of the prosecuting inspectors – that of Borg having a ‘similar hairstyle’ to the actual perpetrator – was not sufficient for any justifiable reasonable suspicion. Moreover, it also held that Borg’s criminal record, his history of drug use, and the fact that he had been involved in argument with his mother earlier were not sufficient grounds to arraign him.

Consequently, it said, the lack of conclusive evidence, did not warrant Borg’s arraignment and the police’s objections to bail.

The report also concedes that the wrongful arrest was the result of lack of communication between two concurrent investigations by the CID and district police.

“The miscommunication between the police officers produces serious consequences which resulted in a person who had nothing to do with the crime being charged in court. This issue could have been avoided had the two sections investigated the case together,” it said.

The board also noted that in spite of his “little” involvement, Inspector Carlos Cordina was nevertheless included in the arraignment sheet. It said that Inspector Elton Taliana should have been included as he was the person responsible for the district.

Moreover, the board concluded that disciplinary measures should be taken against Inspectors Mercieca and Cordina. It also recommended that these measures should take into consideration the inspectors’ “exemplary” record.