Magistrate admonishes prosecution in Paqpaqli case over number of witnesses produced

The magistrate observed that the next two sittings, which will be held towards the end of April, will last from 9am till 5pm and warned that he wanted those sittings to be fully exploited

A furious magistrate has declared that “jury rules” are to apply to the Paqpaqli case after noting that only a handful of witnesses were appearing at sittings.

The case against the 13-member core organising committee for Paqpaqli ghall- Istrina, Paul Bailey, Tonio Darmanin, Tonio Cini, Agostino Degiorgio, Jonathan Tonna, Kevin Perry, Melvin Haber, Ian Keith Cilia Pisani, Jonathan Bruno, Julian Mannara, Christopher Sultana, David Bugeja and Brian Gatt continued this morning.

The 13 are accused of involuntarily causing grievous bodily harm, as well damage to various motor vehicles, through imprudence, carelessness and non-observance of regulations after 23 spectators were injured when a Porsche 918 Spyder crashed into the crowd at the annual Paqpaqli Ghall-Istrina car show in October 2015.

Presiding Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who had allocated 4 hours to hear prosecution witnesses today, erupted this morning after only 3 witnesses which were summoned by the prosecution appeared, finishing their testimony in around half an hour. Yesterday, the court had also allocated a sitting till 5pm, but no less than five witnesses failed to turn up.  

The prosecution explained that they had tried to produce witnesses but that some had been unable to turn up for reasons beyond their control. They argued that in the previous 10 to 12 sittings, all of which had lasted from 9am to 5pm - a measure intended to accomodate UK resident Paul Bailey, the witnesses had all appeared. The prosecution was trying to balance the needs of the accused and those of the witnesses, it said.

“Today everyone speaks of human rights, but the time has come to speak of community rights,” rued the magistrate. It was unacceptable to make Maltese witnesses waste a day of work to come to court and to bring witnesses from the UK for just 30 minutes of testimony, he said, before ordering that jury rules are to apply from today onwards. This means that  enough witnesses to fill the scheduled sitting must be waiting outside the hall, available to testify, as happens in jury trials. 

The magistrate observed that the next two sittings, which will be held towards the end of April, will last from 9am till 5pm and warned that he wanted those sittings to be fully exploited.

Police Inspectors Hubert Cini, Silvio Magro and Josric Mifsud are prosecuting.

Lawyers Giannella DeMarco and Stephen Tonna Lowell are counsel to Paul Bailey. Lawyer Joe Giglio is counsel to Tonio Darmanin. Lawyer Stefano Filletti is counsel to Brian Gatt and Julian Manara.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi is defence counsel for Ian Cilia Pisani, Kevin Perry and Chris Sultana. Other members of the Paqpaqli team are being assisted by Michael Sciriha, Raphael Fenech Adami and Albert Zerafa.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Amadeus Cachia, Roberto Montalto, Michael Grech, Shazoo Ghaznavi, Alessia Zammit Mackeon and Reuben Farrugia are among the lawyers appearing parte civile for the victims.

 

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