Handbag theft conviction overturned on appeal

Court of Appeal rules that Court of Magistrates had overlooked important facts in convicting Alan Micallef of theft, saying his actions had not been consistent with that of a person who had just stolen something.

A man's conviction for stealing a handbag has been overturned on appeal, after judge noted that the court which convicted him had failed to assess whether his actions were consistent with that of a man who had just stolen an item from a car.

41 year-old Alan Micallef was convicted of having stolen a handbag from a parked car in October 2007.

The Court of Magistrates had heard how Micallef and David Ellul Lanfranco had been stopped by suspicious officers as he strolled past the Hamrun police station, carrying a woman's handbag. A police officer had testified that he had spotted the two men while parking his car. He had asked Micallef's co-accused, who had been holding the handbag, about the item he was carrying and was told that it belonged to his cousin. The men were arrested moments later, when a woman ran into the police station, shouting that someone had taken her handbag from her car whilst she had been dropping her daughter off at school.

Micallef had been convicted, in spite of claiming to have been on his way to the police station to hand it over, having come across the handbag on the road, resting against the wheel of a parked car. In court, the woman had conceded that it was possible that she had dropped the handbag whilst getting out of her car.


He had appealed, arguing that the court had not been shown any evidence that could have led to the court finding him guilty, adding that the circumstantial evidence did not sufficiently corroborate the evidence collected. Ellul Lanfranco's testimony was inadmissable in evidence against Micallef, as the former was allegedly an accomplice, the defence had argued.

Mr. Justice Giovanni Grixti, presiding the Court of Criminal Appeal noted that the court of Magistrates had overlooked important aspects in its consideration of the facts. 

Both men accused and police witnesses had testified that the bag had been in Ellul Lanfranco's hands and not Micallef's when the two were taken to the police station, the judge pointed out.

Another issue the first court had not dealt with was Ellul Lanfranco's carrying of the handbag in full view and still containing all of its contents. This did not fit with what one would normally expect a thief to do and certainly merited the first court's consideration.

Judge Grixti overturned the first court's guilty verdict and cleared Micallef.

Lawyer Lucio Sciriha appeared for Alan Micallef.