Man fined €850 after being found guilty of calling policeman 'a frying pan'

Patrick Sciberras was arraigned on charges of insulting a police officer in the exercise of his duties, offending public morals with words or gestures, giving false details to police, breaching the peace and relapsing

A 37-year-old man from St. Paul’s Bay has been fined €850 and handed a conditional discharge for allegedly calling a policeman a “frying pan” in an incident his lawyer claims has been blown out of proportion.

The man, Patrick Sciberras, was arraigned before Magistrate Charmaine Galea this afternoon on charges of insulting a police officer in the exercise of his duties, offending public morals with words or gestures, giving false details to police, breaching the peace and relapsing.

Sciberras told the court that he had consumed a couple of drinks at a bar earlier that day. Whilst waiting to be picked up from a bus stop by a friend, a motorcycle-mounted policeman first drove past them, then stopped shortly after, shouting and calling the mobile squad and district police. Sciberras conceded that he might have sworn at this point as he was in a state of agitation.

Prosecuting Inspector Godwin Scerri, cross-examining the accused, asked him if he remembered shouting “Hawn ja frying pan” (“Hey you frying pan”) to the policeman driving past. The accused said that he did not.

The woman who had been accompanying the accused, Fiona Muscat, confirmed this version of events. “We were walking and joking amongst ourselves when a police motorcycle passed us and stopped.”

She denied hearing the accused utter any sort of comment at the passing police vehicle. Answering a question from the prosecution, she said she did not think that Sciberras was intoxicated at the time.

Their lift home, a John Bugeja, who arrived shortly after the incident took place, also testified. He told the magistrate that he had received a phone call from the accused, asking for a lift in order to spare them the wait for the bus.

Upon his arrival, he saw the policeman talking to his friend but was told to get back in the car when he approached. “Then the RIU (Police Rapid Intervention Unit) arrived and there was a bit of a commotion. We were eventually allowed to take him home though.”

The policeman at the centre of the incident did not testify, the prosecution instead presenting his version of events by means of an affidavit.

Defence lawyer Franco Debono protested against what he called the exaggerated reaction to a perceived insult, saying there had been no need to involve the district police and the RIU. “The attitude should have been a calm word, if anything.” He stressed the fact that nobody had testified to having heard any shouting or threats.

The accused apologised and said he took back anything which could have been perceived as an insult.

The court however found him to be guilty. Possibly in recognition of the trivial nature of the incident, the magistrate conditionally discharged the accused for a year and fined him €850 – a punishment close to the legal minimum, in spite of the serious charges and his criminal record.

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