Violent anti-police Facebook comments cost man €500

The man had been charged in court after posting comments on Facebook, beneath a news article on speeding camera fines, saying people were right to run over police officers

A man who admitted to making Facebook comments advocating violence against the police has been placed on probation.

Josef Vincenti was arraigned in court last September after posting a series of Facebook comments under a news article stating that police officers were dishing out 26 speeding tickets an hour using hand-held speed cameras.

Referring to the case of police officer Simon Schembri, who lost a limb after being run over and dragged several hundred metres by an underage driver, Vincenti had written that “people were right to run over police officers and drive off”.

Vincenti was subsequently arrested and charged with publicly inciting persons to commit a crime and to break the law, with having used a social network to threaten to commit a crime and with having used threatening words or behaviour with the intention of inciting violence against a group of people. Vincenti had pleaded guilty to the charges.

He was also charged with breaching previously-imposed bail conditions and with being a recidivist. The court had been asked to revoke the man’s bail and confiscate his bail money.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello, deciding the case, noted that the man had a drug and alcohol habit and had told his probation officer that he had used cocaine the day before the crimes were committed.

The court had heard how the man had been going through hard times, having lost his job due to an operation and having little contact with his six-year-old son. Another factor observed by the court was that Vincenti had difficulty controlling the expression of his thoughts and opinions.

He had recently started to make progress in fighting his addictions, the court was told.

The magistrate ruled that jailing the man would be counterproductive in view of this progress.

Noting that he had made an early admission and had cooperated fully with the police investigation, not to mention “his evident sorrow and great contrition” for the behaviour that landed him in court, the court placed the man under a three year probation order.

For his breach of bail, the court imposed a €200 fine and confiscated his €300 bail guarantee, saying that its primary aim was to reform the accused, which aim would not be achieved if he is incarcerated.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia were defence counsel.