Pistol thieves fined after appeal

Glenn Gatt, 26, and Luca Sultana, 22, had admitted to robbing a house in Lija and stealing a Glock pistol and cash in 2014

Two men who had been conditionally discharged for stealing a pistol and cash during a house burglary in 2013 have also been fined after an appeal by the Attorney General.

In 2014, before the court of Magistrates, Glenn Gatt, 26, and Luca Sultana, 22, had admitted to robbing a house in Lija and stealing a Glock pistol. They were also accused of being in possession and carrying a firearm without a licence. Gatt alone was also accused of relapsing, as he had been under a conditional discharge at the time of the offence.

The men were handed conditional discharges, Sultana for 18 months and Gatt for three years. The latter was also placed under probation and ordered to complete 50 hours of community service for the crime.

This sentence was the subject of an appeal filed by the Office of the Attorney General, who in November 2014 argued that the punishment inflicted by the court of Magistrates was below the minimum prescribed by law. The AG requested the court to impose the punishment prescribed by the law, as well as order the men to foot the bill for court costs.

In its appeal, the public prosecutor argued that while the previous court had punished the men for burglary, it had failed to impose a punishment for the other charges, all of which had been admitted to by the accused. In addition, the AG pointed out that the law explicitly stated that offences under the Arms Act – under which the two 'forgotten' charges had been filed - were not eligible for probation.

The charge of possession of a firearm without a licence was punishable by imprisonment from three months to five years or a fine of at least €692, if the court was satisfied that the weapon was not intended for sale or illegal use.

The men were also liable for a fine of €233 or up to six months' imprisonment for not informing the Commissioner of Police that a firearm had come into their possession. Furthermore, the court of first instance had not ordered the guilty party to foot the bill for the costs incurred in prosecuting the case.

In his judgement, delivered yesterday, Mr. Justice Antonio Grixti made no bones about the previous court's error. “After examining the Arms Act there is little that can be said about this appeal because, as the defence also recognises, the Attorney General is right.” The court of first instance was permitted to impose probation for the first charge, but the other charges called for a different punishment.

The court, after taking into account the passage of 15 months from the conditional discharge and the fact that an appeal by the AG does not suspend the execution of a sentence, unlike one filed by the accused, held that a fine would be the most fitting punishment.

Gatt was ordered to complete fifty hours of community work in view of his relapsing. The men were fined €1,100 each for the firearm offences and ordered to pay €1,188 in costs.