Conviction for death threats, criminal damage overturned due to lack of evidence

The judge pointed out that the conviction rested solely on hearsay evidence which was inadmissible in court

The judge pointed out that  the conviction rested solely on hearsay evidence which was inadmissible in court
The judge pointed out that the conviction rested solely on hearsay evidence which was inadmissible in court

A Gozitan man's conviction for damaging a car and making death threats has been overturned on appeal after a judge ruled that the conviction had rested on hearsay evidence which was inadmissible in court.

Terance Zammit, 43, had been accused of knowingly filing a false police report alleging David Xerri - with whom he had an ongoing feud - was in possession of illicit drugs. He was also accused of damaging Xerri's car and sending the man emails in which he threatened to kill him.

Zammit had been identified as the primary suspect after Xerri had found deep, cruciform scratches on his car’s right door, but had vehemently denied the allegations when he was called in for questioning by the police.

Last year, the court of magistrates cleared Zammit of filing the false police report and causing a third party to fear the use of violence, but found him guilty of causing damage to the vehicle and threatening to kill the man. He was sentenced to five months imprisonment, suspended for one year against a personal guarantee of €2,000. He was also ordered to pay Xerri €325 for the damage to the car.

Zammit had filed an appeal against the judgment.

In a decision handed down earlier this week, the Court of Criminal Appeal, with Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri presiding, held that there was effectively no evidence of the man's guilt.

The Chief Justice noted that the conviction rested on the testimony of an elderly woman who had told the court of Magistrates that she had been told by her granddaughter that Zammit had scratched the car - an assertion also testified to by the granddaughter's mother.

However the judge pointed out that this was inadmissible hearsay evidence because the granddaughter herself had not testified.

With regards to the alleged death threats, the court observed that the e-mail in question was never exhibited to the court. Two other emails had been exhibited in court however they were not proven to have been sent by the accused.

Taking all this into account, the court overturned the man's conviction, acquitting Zammit of all charges and revoking the punishment originally meted out.

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