Retrial ordered over 2014 drugs conviction

A judge has ordered a retrial of a case which saw a man being sentenced to prison based on statements he gave police without a lawyer present

The judge annulled the 2014 judgment, ordering the cessation of the ongoing criminal appeal and the retrial of the case
The judge annulled the 2014 judgment, ordering the cessation of the ongoing criminal appeal and the retrial of the case

Another successful constitutional case over a conviction secured on the strength of a statement taken without a lawyer being present has resulted in a €1,000 payout and almost certain acquittal in a future retrial of a man previously convicted of drug offences.

35-year-old Dominic Camilleri had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in drug-related crime in 2004 and had released two statements during his interrogation under arrest. No lawyer had been present when he was questioned by the police, a practice that had been legal at the time. He was charged in 2008 and convicted in 2014, on the strength of his admission, being sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment and a fine of €950.

Camilleri's lawyers, Jason Azzopardi, Kris Busietta and Julian Farrugia had filed an appeal and a separate constitutional claim, arguing that his right to a fair trial had been breached.

The man's legal team argued that Camilleri had been suffering from drug withdrawal symptoms at the time and had wanted to get the statement out of the way as quickly as possible so that he would be released and be able to buy more drugs.

He also claimed to have been intimidated during his interrogation by police officers shouting and banging on the table.


Judge Joseph Zammit Mackeon, presiding the First Hall of the Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction ruled that Camilleri's fundamental human right to a fair hearing, as enshrined in the Constitution and as reflected in the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, had been breached. 


The judge annulled the 2014 judgment, ordering the cessation of the ongoing criminal appeal and the retrial of the case with the two statements Camilleri had made – and upon which his conviction had rested – excised from the proceedings.

Apart from this, the court ruled that Camilleri deserved to be compensated for the breach of his rights and awarded him €1,000 in damages.

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