Young offender told police he wanted to go to prison with his friend

Magistrate warns young man not to commit a crime of solidarity after being handed down a probation while his friend is jailed for theft

The two young men said they stole to feed themselves
The two young men said they stole to feed themselves

One of two teenagers charged with theft told police he would commit another crime if his friend is jailed, a court heard this morning.

The two youths appeared in court on theft charges, claiming to have stolen food to feed themselves.

Nikolai Abela, 19, and Anthony Joseph Xuereb, 18, were convicted of five thefts and several counts of criminal damage after they pleaded guilty to the charges.

Xuereb was jailed for 18 months while Abela was placed on a two-year probation order.

The pair were charged with stealing food and drink from a Valletta snack bar on 13 October and causing damage to the premises. Xuereb alone was charged with three further counts of theft and damage, one of attempted theft and breaching his probation.

Inspectors Daryl Borg and Jeffrey Scicluna arraigned the pair, saying they had been apprehended after being identified following an intensive investigation.

Scicluna explained that the police had received many reports of thefts, mostly from Valletta restaurants, and had eventually established that Xuereb was involved in all the thefts. Abela was involved in one, he said.

There was a theft from a chapel in Hamrun in which a third person was also involved, he said, but that person had not yet been taken in to custody.

The youths were on the run for several days, Scicluna said.

They had cooperated with the police and admitted to the crimes in their statements. A stolen laptop was recovered but an undisclosed amount of cash was not.

Lawyer Graziella Tanti, appearing as legal aid to the accused, told the court that the youths had stole because they were hungry. They had returned what they could, she said, adding that both accused had drug dependency issues and asked the court for help with this.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale refused the defence’s request to ban the publication of the accused’s names.

“They are over 18 and have responsibilities,” he said, ruling that there was no reason to uphold the request.

Both accused pleaded guilty to the charges. 
Xuereb, in view of his recidivism and the fact that he had committed the crime during the operative period of a probation order, was jailed for 18 months.

The court invited the prison authorities to hold the man at the young offenders unit at Mtaħleb and ordered them to give him the necessary treatment to overcome his drug addiction.

Abela, on the other hand, had no prior brushes with the law. The court, taking this into account placed him on probation for two years with a treatment order for the same period.

The inspector told the court that Abela had told the police that if Xuereb goes to prison, he would commit another crime so he could be incarcerated with his buddy.

The court warned him that this would do him no good at all. “You have been given a chance. Don’t waste it,” the magistrate told Abela.

“Xuereb, you bit the hand that fed you. You can be given all the help you want but if you don’t want to change it’ll be for nothing. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink,” said the court.

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