Gozitan conditionally discharged and fined for demolishing priest's wall

43-year-old John Vella, from Xagħra, was fined €1,000 and ordered to pay €575 in legal costs after he found him guilty of aggravated theft, criminal damage and relapsing 

A Gozitan man was conditionally discharged by a court this morning, after he was found guilty of stealing a stonemason's equipment, damaging a wall and relapsing. 

Magistrate Joe Mifsud fined 43-year-old John Vella, from Xagħra, €1,000 and ordered him to pay €575 in legal costs after he found him guilty of aggravated theft, criminal damage and relapsing in relation to the 2011 theft of a winch and stone slabs from a house belonging to Monsignor Joseph Vella Gauci in Victoria, Gozo. 

The court had heard how in 2011, the Monsignor had reported the accused for parking his vehicle in such a way as to block his access into the cleric’s property. The police had been summoned and were told that three courses of the roof’s dividing wall and a builder’s winch had disappeared.

During questioning the accused had denied causing damage to anyone, telling police that he had taken the stone from his own property and left it on his own property

The accused had been engaged to demolish a low wall on the roof of the cleric’s house and had blocked the front door with his truck to ensure that nobody would be able to come in while he was there. 

Witnesses had testified to the winch being there on the night before the theft, and to it being reported missing, together with the dividing wall and its stones, the next day. 

In spite of the lack of direct evidence that the accused had stolen the winch, after taking all the circumstances of the case into account, the court was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence upon which it could conclude that the accused was guilty.

In his detailed 22-page judgment, magistrate Mifsud clearly laid out the elements of the offence of theft, as established by reference to case law. 

He held that Vella was incapable of living in harmony as part of a civilized society and that this was evident when he acted as if he thought he could do whatever he liked, always expecting to find forgiveness for his breaches of the law. Vella was discharged on condition that he does not commit another crime within the next three years, also being ordered to pay back the sum of €575 to MVella Gauci for the damage caused, as well as being ordered to remove the vehicle blocking access to the property.

By handing him a conditional discharge, the court said it left a the prospect of incarceration dangling over his head “like a guillotine”, in the event that he did not abide by the conditions it imposed.