Mother gave Liam Debono cannabis at 9 ‘to keep him quiet’, court told

The 17-year-old said he had been smoking three to four grams a day since the age of nine as his mother would give it to him to keep him quiet

Liam Debono started using drugs at age 9, a court has heard.

Magistrate Joe Mifsud, presiding the compilation of evidence against Debono who is accused of running over and nearly killing a policeman heard Inspector Malcolm Bondin testify.

Debono had been stopped by RIU after he was spotted performing suspicious maneuvers, Bondin said and what police suspected to be drugs were found in his car. He had admitted that the substance was cannabis grass and that it was his. “He would smoke 3-4g every day… since age 9 as his mother would give it to him to keep him quiet.”

Magistrate Mifsud was told about a previous arrest where Debono had threatened a policeman who had stopped him for riding a bicycle that had no brakes or pedals.

Lawyer Amadeus Cachia requested bail, pointing out that all witnesses have now testified. “There is definitely no chance of tampering with evidence, neither is there chance of escape from Malta.”

“Not only is Liam Debono presumed innocent, but just because he is charged with several offences it doesn’t mean they’re going to stay the same. Several times we have seen persons charged with homicide being downgraded to other offences. Lets say the AG feels that it should be an involuntary grievous injury charge instead of involuntary homicide …the punishment is far lower than the present charges.”

Decrying what he called “this crusade against Liam Debono” Cachia said things had been started from a presumption of guilt. 

“I think this is the only case where we have a protest about an accused being attended unfortunately by the President." He noted that the President herself is being held civilly responsible for the Paqpaqli incident, a case with similar injuries.

But Magistrate Mifsud had no truck with this argument, saying that had he not been prohibited by ethics, he would have gone and stood “shoulder to shoulder with the President.” Some have suggested that the magistrate's comments could be grounds for recusal.

In view of his early drug problem he is ideal for rehab, said the lawyer.

“He is facing 40 years in prison,” said the magistrate. “Five months in Mtahleb- he’s not being mistreated.”

The court, in reply to his bail request, noted the seriousness of the offence, the effect on public order, the risk of repeat offending and the high risk of him fleeing due to the possible sentence, refused the request. Case law established that the reasonableness of time held under arrest was to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

In an impressively-researched decree which made reference to a trove of European and domestic case law, the court examined the criteria for denying bail, saying these subsisted. The presumption of innocence could be outweighed by other factors it said.

Debono’s lawyers said they will looking into the possibility of requesting bail from the Criminal Court, pointing out that in the case of Michael Caruana Turner, where a young drunk driver killed a pedestrian and injured 7 people, the accused was given bail upon arraignment by the same magistrate.