Fingerprints not enough for conviction in Don Bosco burglary case

Tyrone Pace was acquitted of involvement in a 2013 burglary from the Oratory of Don Bosco in Dingli, despite fingerprint evidence linking him to the scene.

Uncertainty regarding the context of fingerprint evidence has resulted in a failure to convict a man accused of stealing from the Salesian Oratory of Don Bosco.

The burglar or burglars had forced open an outer window to the Dingli oratory and made off with a number of tools, PlayStations, laptops and related games. 22-year old Tyrone Pace had been arraigned in 2013 and charged with the burglary.

It emerged that Pace was well-acquainted with the building, as he would spend a fair amount of his free time there with his friends, like every other young man in the village.

Forensics officers had lifted fingerprints which matched Pace's from the inner side of the window that had been forced open to gain access to the building, as well as from the window ledge and from a tuck shop window pane that had also been forced open.

But as Pace had consistently denied being involved in the burglary, the fingerprints represented the sum total of the prosecution's evidence, the magistrate noted.

Pace's lawyer Lucio Sciriha argued that the central issue was whether the evidence produced could be considered as sufficient to morally and legally satisfy the court, beyond reasonable doubt, of the guilt of the accused.

In a judgment handed down on Monday, Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit had upheld this argument. While the accused's fingerprints had been found around the windows that were forced open, the court said it had doubts as to whether the forensics team had found the accused's fingerprints on other, non-suspicious places, saying this prevented it from getting a clear picture of the circumstances.

Pace was declared innocent of all charges as a result.

Inspector Joseph Mercieca prosecuted, while Pace was defended by lawyer Lucio Sciriha.