Serial killer loses case for judicial review of parole refusal

The man, who had been condemned to life imprisonment for a quadruple murder, lost his case for a judicial review of the actions of the Parole Board

Ben Ali Wahid Ben Hassine had been condemned to life imprisonment in 1992 for killing four people
Ben Ali Wahid Ben Hassine had been condemned to life imprisonment in 1992 for killing four people

Quadruple murderer Ben Ali Wahid Ben Hassine has lost his case for judicial review of the actions of the Parole Board, which in May 2017 had refused to grant the man parole for at least another five years.

Ben Hassine, a Tunisian national, had been condemned to life imprisonment in February 1992 for his part in the murder of two taxi drivers and two men, one British and the other French, in an 18-day killing spree that shocked the island.

The man had instilled terror in the Maltese Islands in February 1988, when he carried out the four callous and brutal murder-robberies. The murders were so gruesome that some people were unwilling to leave their homes at the time. His third victim was shot in the head and had his face smashed with a rock in an attempt to prevent recognition, this after Hassine had failed at decapitating the body. The fourth and final victim was also a taxi driver whom he shot in the head.

He was found guilty, and in 1992, the criminal court had jailed him for life, recommending that he serve a minimum of 22 years behind bars.

Ben Hassine had filed court proceedings in 2014, arguing that the fact that his sentence had no prospect of revision breached his fundamental human rights.

In November 2016, the Constitutional Court had declared that life sentences without the prospect of parole were in breach of the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

In April 2017, the court had ordered the Parole Board to hear the prisoner and assess if he was still a danger to society or whether he was an ideal candidate for parole. A month later, the Board had delivered its decision, in which it said that despite the man’s progress towards rehabilitation he should not be released on parole. It added that the request for parole be reconsidered in five years’ time.

The prisoner then filed an action for judicial review of the Board’s decision and the case was assigned to judge Joseph R Micallef.

The Parole Board, as defendants in this case, had argued that the action for judicial review of administrative actions he had filed could not succeed as they were only implementing the decision of the Constitutional Court and they weren’t the correct defendants in such a case. It was also argued that the act itself was not an administrative one and so the wrong procedure had been adopted by Ben Hassine.

Judge Micallef upheld the defence’s argument that the decision didn’t fall within the parameters of an “administrative action” as required under article 469A of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure as the Board was not a public authority, but a “Statutory Board with quasi-judicial functions.”

“The Court believes that the meaning of the words “administrative actions”…was not intended by the legislator to include decisions of a board or statutory tribunal.” There was also case law which held that the scrutiny of such decisions fell outside the court’s remit insofar as the action requested was concerned, it said.

The court ruled that it would be of no use for it to hear any other preliminary pleas because the case exceeded its powers to hear the merits. The case was dismissed.