Tears in court as youths denied bail for multiple bag-snatching thefts

Two teenage boys were taken to prison this morning after being charged with a number of thefts, while their disconsolate mothers looked on

Two teenage boys were taken to prison this morning after being charged with a number of thefts, while their disconsolate mothers looked on.

Inspector Fabian Fleri and Mark Anthony Mercieca arraigned the two young men, aged just 17 and 16 with stealing four wallets, three of which were from elderly women and with slightly injuring an elderly man. The youths' victims were exclusively women.

The 17-year-old Maltese-speaking Belarusian defendant was accused of stealing four wallets, three of which were from women aged in their late 60s or early 70s and the attempted theft of a wallet from another woman. The 16-year-old Maltese youth is co-accused in two of the thefts and is also charged with slightly injuring the 72-year-old male companion of one of the victims.

Although the manner in which the thefts were carried out was not discussed in open court, it is understood that the two accused had snatched the handbags of their victims. The accused were also charged with attempted theft, after one bag-snatching attempt was unsuccessful.

Lawyers Marion Cutajar, appearing for the 16-year-old and Mark Mifsud Cutajar, for the 17-year-old entered not guilty pleas on behalf of their clients. They requested a ban on the publication of the boys' names. Asked to justify this request by presiding magistrate Francesco Depasquale, they argued that both accused have no prior convictions.

“The law is clear in that minors are treated differently for the purposes of awarding punishment,” submitted Cutajar, arguing that this reason should be extended to the publication of their names. “They made their first mistake,” she argued.

Mifsud Cutajar, added that the moment that their names are published “they will be marked for life.” This argument seemed to gain traction with the court, which upheld the defence's request.

Magistrate Depasquale said he was appalled by the youths' actions, however. “What are you going to do with your lives from here on?” he asked. “Are you aware of the suffering you have caused to your mother?” If not for yourself, for your mother.”

The boys put on their best repentant faces and apologised for their actions. The defence did not request bail.

Both mothers, who appeared utterly distraught throughout the sitting, hugged the boys as they were led out.

Magistrate Depasquale made a formal request to the prison authorities to place them in an environment more suited to their age, such as the Young Offenders Rehabilitation Services Unit at Corradino prisons. At the defence's request, the court also appointed separate probation officers for the two accused, who are to present a social enquiry report.

“Sirs, today you are going to prison to understand where you will end up if you do not change your ways,” said the magistrate. “I am going to appoint someone to help you. Accept the help that you are being given and put a stop to your families' pain, they did nothing to deserve this.”