Constitutional Court revokes €7,000 compensation for Daniel Holmes

In his constitutional application, Holmes had insisted that the Gozitan legal aid lawyer who represented him in the initial stages was not specialised in criminal law. 

The Constitutional Court has overturned a decision awarding Daniel Holmes, who is currently serving a 10-and-a-half-year sentence for cannabis cultivation, €7,000 in compensation.

Judges Giannino Caruana Demajo, Tonio Mallia and Noel Cuschieri, constituting the Constitutional Court in its superior jurisdiction, has this morning delivered a judgment upholding the Attorney General’s appeal to a decision handed down in October - when the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction had awarded Holmes €7,000 in compensation, ruling that his right to justice within a reasonable time had been breached.

Holmes had been arrested in June 2006, following a search in his Gozo apartment that resulted in the recovery of one kilogram of dried cannabis leaves and a small amount of cannabis resin. 

He admitted to five charges of drug possession, cultivation and trafficking in November 2011 and was handed a 10-year sentence and a fine of €23,000. Holmes admitted to all charges ahead of a trial by jury but insisted that the drugs were for his personal use.

Holmes’ lawyers had invoked a recent amendment to the law which allows a person accused to challenge the discretion of the Attorney General in deciding whether a case is to be heard by the criminal court - with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment - or the court of magistrates, with a maximum sentence of 10 years.

The appeal had claimed that the Attorney General’s sole discretion to decide whether a case is to be heard by a court of Magistrates or whether a Bill of Indictment is to be filed before the criminal court is in violation of the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights. 

In his constitutional application, Holmes had insisted that the Gozitan legal aid lawyer who represented him in the initial stages was not specialised in criminal law.

He argues that, in effect, the system did not ensure adequate legal assistance, in violation of his constitutional right to what is known as “secure protection of law”, which is also part of European Law.

Holmes had also alleged that he was denied access to his lawyer during interrogation and had no access to his case file, in violation of his fundamental human rights, as enshrined in the Constitution and European Law.

The Constitutional court however disagreed and dismissed the case, ordering Holmes to also pay the costs of the case. It is not known whether Holmes intends to take his case to the European Court of Human rights, at this time.

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