Lawyers fume as attorney general tries to replace evidence five days before jury trial

The trial has hit an obstacle after the integrity of the court expert who prepared two reports in the evidence file has been brought into question

Lawyers for a man, whose jury for drug trafficking was scheduled to start in five days' time, have reacted furiously to an extraordinarily late request filed by the Attorney General, urgently requesting permission to be allowed to replace two reports made by a discredited court expert.

Kofi Otule Friday and Austine Uche are due to stand trial for drug trafficking on June 1. However, the trial has hit an obstacle after the court expert who prepared two reports in the evidence file was revealed to have been convicted of stealing €59,329 from Air Malta by a British court in 1993.

The integrity of court expert Dr. Martin Bajada was originally brought into question by a civil judgement, delivered on April 29.

Since then, several objections to the use of Bajada’s testimony have been successfully raised by defence lawyers in various cases.

Friday's defence counsel, lawyers Franco Debono, Alfred Abela and Mario Mifsud are arguing that if Bajada’s testimony has been deemed to be unreliable in a civil case, there was now all the more reason to dismiss his evidence, given the gravity of criminal proceedings.

Both the defence and the prosecution had requested the removal of Bajada’s report from the records of the case.

But within the last 48 hours, the Attorney General had filed a reply requesting the court's permission to bring new witnesses to provide evidence in Bajada's stead.

Inconsistencies and untrustworthy witnesses serve to help defence counsel to create reasonable doubt in favour of the accused. As a rule of thumb, evidence which had not featured in the compilation of evidence inadmissible in trials by jury.

In order to safeguard the rights of the accused and the interests of justice, the law provides very strict rules as to how and at what stage witnesses are to be heard and evidence brought before the court, together with strict time limits after which new evidence or witnesses cannot be produced.

The application therefore requested the court to confirm the removal of Bajada's reports and to revoke part of its earlier decree in which it sent the acts of the case back to the court of magistrates to hear the evidence and appoint a new expert, as indicated in the Attorney General's application.