Jailed for unlicensed firearm, cleared of using forged banknotes

The 38-year-old man has been handed a six month prison sentence for carrying an unlicensed firearm

A 38 year-old man has been cleared of complicity in fraud and the use of forged banknotes, but jailed for carrying an unlicensed firearm in public.

Christopher Schembri, who had been handed a suspended sentence last year for similar offences, was accused of complicity in distributing fake banknotes, together with another man, Thomas Camilleri, in 2012, while acting as his driver.
Schembri had assumed responsibility for a firearm which police had initially thought belonged to Camilleri, as it had been found in his car.

Magistrate Joe Mifsud said in the circumstances of the case, there was insufficient evidence tying Schembri to the charges of circulating forged banknotes.
“It is true that the accused would drive Thomas Camilleri to the places where the crimes were committed, but he would also offer passenger transport services,” Mifsud said.
“It is also true that they would use drugs together and that the accused was heavily influenced by Camilleri, but the legal requirement for complicity are not satisfied.”
Schembri was, however, found guilty of carrying a firearm in public without a license from the Commissioner of Police, a fact the court described as “utterly deplorable.” The court said it could not treat this crime as a small or insignificant violation, particularly when the weapon was not licensed.
Firearms should be carried in public only as authorised and licensed, said the court, a measure that would avoid their misuse.
The court said it was precluded from handing down a probation or community service order in view of the man's drug addiction, as this would potentially endanger innocent people in the community.
Magistrate Mifsud said he understood that not everyone was "blessed with the good fortune of being a safe distance away from vices and criminality" and that the accused was in the grip of drug addiction. But, the court said, there was also the power of will and reason.
“And a 35 year old man should have enough good sense to decide whether to commit a crime or to hold back from doing so.”
“The court cannot remain impassive in the face of persons who ignore or fail to make good use of the opportunities is gives them. The accused also has obligations that he must observe and the accused's drug abuse problem cannot take anything away from the gravity of the actions he committed or excuse him of responsibility for them.”
The accused needed to be forced to stay away from drugs, held the magistrate, handing down a six month prison sentence for the unlicensed weapon, which was confiscated by the court. Schembri was also banned from holding a firearms license for 3 years and ordered to submit to treatment for psychological difficulties that were leading him to criminality.
Schembri is not expected to appeal.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Ian Abdilla prosecuted. Lawyer David Gatt was defence counsel.


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