Court does not take kindly to lawyer’s light-hearted approach to domestic violence

Magistrate Joe Mifsud calls for domestic violence training as lawyer argues client’s messages were ‘just a trick of love’

Magistrate Joe Mifsud
Magistrate Joe Mifsud

Lawyers need training on domestic violence issues, a court has said, as it denied bail to a man accused of sending threatening letters and texts to his girlfriend.

Magistrate Joe Mifsud made the observation after hearing submissions in a criminal case against a 27-year-old man from Fgura.

Shaun Ray Belli was charged by the police with stalking, harassing and threatening his girlfriend, and filing a false police report.

Inspector Jonathan Ransley told the court how Belli had allegedly sent threatening texts and letters to his girlfriend pretending to be someone else, in the hope of getting her to go live with him.

The precise content of the letters was not disclosed in court today.

Ransley explained that Belli had gone with his girlfriend to file the police report.

The man pleaded not guilty and the court turned down a request for bail.

Belli’s lawyer David Gatt said that the woman and the accused were in a relationship and lived together until the arraignment.

“In fact, there was no threat to this victim,” the lawyer argued.

The magistrate had no truck with this argument insisting the “police can’t waste time on fake crimes”.

“This is a waste of the court’s and everyone’s time. We can’t carry on allowing this playing with peoples’ emotions to go on,” Mifsud said.

The defence lawyer insisted that his client was only “bluffing” by sending his girlfriend messages under the guise of another person.

“It’s just a trick of love,” Gatt said, a comment that elicited a negative response from the magistrate.

Mifsud said emotional violence was in some ways worse than physical violence. “A blow heals with care and time, but where there is emotional violence this takes a much longer time to heal. It’s not fair. There are people suffering,” the magistrate said.

Gatt insisted this was no reason to deny bail but Inspector Ransley noted that the man was also sending his girlfriend alarming text messages.

The police had questioned the couple and found that their versions did not match. Ransley said the police had mobile phone data proving the man’s guilt.

“He came to the station with her,” the inspector said, underlining the lengths the man had gone to deceive his partner.

Unhappy with the way the defence had made its submissions, the court remarked that there needed to be more training on dealing with cases of domestic violence.