Patrick Spiteri requests bail on health grounds

Disbarred lawyer Patrick Spiteri has denied attempting to escape justice by moving to England and has asked to be released on bail

Patrick Spiteri asserted that he was sick and could not remain in prison
Patrick Spiteri asserted that he was sick and could not remain in prison

Disbarred lawyer Patrick Spiteri has denied attempting to escape justice by moving to England and has asked to be released on bail.

Spiteri was arrested in the UK last May on the strength of several European Arrest Warrants and brought to Malta to face proceedings for fraud.

Before Magistrate Josette Demicoli this morning, Spiteri asserted that he was sick and could not remain in prison, that he was trustworthy and had never tried to escape justice.

“Between 2008 and 2013, until I became very ill, there were 35 sittings. I attended 80% of those even though I was living abroad. When I failed to appear in the earlier sittings it was because I hadn't been notified. Other times I was abroad on work and had advised the prosecution and judge Edwina Grima had always understood.”

He had been treated in Italy for toxin inhalation in 2012, he said, but had still attended sittings. The prosecution was also at fault for some of the delays, he said.

Spiteri said that he had initially been examined in Italy and Malta, but doctors were not certain. He had then sought treatment in the UK.

Most of his time in 2014 was spent at the Macmillan Cancer Centre, Spiteri explained. The authorities knew his address and the EAWs had been sent to it, he said.

He was eventually diagnosed as suffering from Behçet's disease, an autoimmune disease that causes neurological damage, genital, throat and mouth ulcers and skin lesions.

Spiteri was prohibited from travelling by the consultant and had informed the court of this, which accepted this explanation. “In the meanwhile, the EAWs were issued.”

In January 2016, his diagnosis was confirmed in the UK and a temporary travel ban was issued. There were also long-standing heart problems which risked being exacerbated by air travel.

In February, when he was due to be extradited, he was in a very bad day, he said. “They had not managed to control the symptoms.” On 29 March this year, the extradition was stopped because he was in visible pain when being moved. He was returned to Wandsworth prison.

He was returned to Malta in May, after the EAWs were issued. “I wanted to come. I didn't oppose it,” Spiteri said this morning.

Corradino prison was not a place for sick people, Spiteri argued. “In prison there are no non-smoking areas. Smoking aggravates my condition, it causes continuous cramps on my right side, which makes my left side weak. I walk with crutches...otherwise I become a health and safety problem.”

Additionally, Corradino's problems with drainage, cockroaches and other factors which could cause his skin lesions which constantly appear, to become infected, he said. His parents were in their 90s and could not visit him in hospital, he added. 

He would make living arrangements with his family if bail were granted. Spiteri's partner and mother to two of his children, Lorna Maltby, took the witness stand to explain that if Spiteri were to be granted bail, she would relocate to Malta. “He needs care and he needs his children around him to give him energy in his life.”

Assistant Police Commissioner Ian Abdilla cross-examined, asking Spiteri about the cessation of communication with the police

“Contact with the police was severed when the EAW was issued in 2014. I couldn't contact you. The address in which I lived did not change, and that is where I was found,” Spiteri replied.

“For better or worse, everyone knows who Patrick Spiteri is,” Lawyer Stefano Filletti, acting as defence counsel, argued. “But a difference must be made between perception and facts.” His notoriety stems from the perception that he had apparently escaped to England, the lawyer said, but in his testimony today, the Assistant Commissioner had confirmed that this was not “a classic case of a person on the run, one who knows which countries to go to escape justice.”

“Even when he became ill, he remained in contact with the police, who knew his whereabouts. It is true that he was brought here on a EAW but you cannot simply state that he was arrested by chance after 15 years on the run.”

“Let us forget for a moment that he is sick...we also heard his partner testify. Patrick Spiteri has a family, three children, a partner and you see the pain in their testimony.”

He didn't want his four-year-old son to associate him with prison and his parents were advanced in years, the lawyer said. “He wants to enjoy them in the twilight of their lives, they don't have a long time left.”

Filletti said it would be strange were the court to be unable to find a way to control his movements and prevent him from absconding. “There are measures to control this, he could sign a bail book once, twice a day,” the lawyer suggested. But the Assistant Commissioner pointed to the legal struggle to bring the lawyer to Malta, also contesting the notion that it wasn't easy to escape the country.

“This case is not a fast-tracked one,” Filletti continued. “So is he to spend the next year or two in prison simply because he was brought here on an EAW?”

The court will be issuing a decree on bail by the next sitting, which is scheduled to take place in ten days’ time.

More in Court & Police

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition