Man battling drug addiction accused of stealing charity collection boxes

A man battling drug addiction has been remanded in custody after he pleaded not guilty to accusations of purloining charity collection boxes from 21 different shops

Falzon was arrested yesterday morning, after a warrant for his arrest was issued
Falzon was arrested yesterday morning, after a warrant for his arrest was issued

A man battling drug addiction has been denied bail after he was accused of purloining charity collection boxes from 21 different shops in the pretence of taking them to be upgraded.

Inspector Roderick Agius and Chantelle Casha accused 36-year-old Keith Falzon, of 21 counts of fraud, before Magistrate Gabriella Vella this morning.

Agius explained that the police had received number of similar reports of donation boxes, in which small change would be collected for charities such as Inspire and the Community Chest Fund, being stolen. The thief would tell the shopkeepers that the box needed a chip, before taking it to his van and driving away.

Falzon was arrested yesterday morning, after a warrant for his arrest was issued by Magistrate Marse-Anne Farrugia.

Falzon, who said he was unemployed, pleaded not guilty to the charges and bail was requested.

The prosecution objected to bail, arguing that the accused had no fixed address. He had given police his parent's address, but when officers had called at the house the man's parents had told police that they didn't want to take him in. Falzon had slept in a homeless shelter for two months, inspector Agius added. Two weeks ago, he had told the shelter's management that he was going to live with someone, but had not identified that person.

Inspector Agius explained that he had been trying to get the accused to address his drug problem for four years, but he had consistently missed appointments. A contained environment working with his probation officer would be ideal, submitted the policeman, not least because the accused knows the witnesses and there was a very real risk of him approaching them before they testify.

Defence lawyer Noel Bartolo asked the man's probation officer to testify for the purposes of bail. The probation officer told the court that she had been working on the case since 2014. Falzon had missed many appointments with Caritas and Detox and she could not keep tabs on his progress. A provisional order of supervision had been issued, but the man would continually make up excuses to avoid drug testing.

He was later issued a psychiatric treatment order for his drug dependency.

The accused appeared in court with a large L-shaped scar across his scalp. The court was told that he had been treated at the Intensive Therapy Unit in hospital for a large head wound, but had discharged himself from hospital against his doctor's wishes.

There were many periods where the man could not be traced, she added. He had later moved to Dar Papa Frangisku - a homeless shelter which, however, does not guarantee a bedspace.

“I was expecting a call to say he is in the ground,” testified the probation officer.

“He missed a chance to start a programme on Monday, again giving an excuse.”

She suggested that he be held at the Forensic Unit, adding that she would not accept to work with him if he was not going to be compelled to attend meetings.

The court ordered the man be remanded in custody, on the grounds of the lack of a fixed address and his drug problems. It made a recommendation to the director of Corradino Correctional Facility to investigate the possibility of holding him in Mount Carmel Hospital, as the probation officer had suggested.