Magistrate, lawyers and prosecutor unite in call for revisiting of domestic violence law

At a point during the sitting, the court was told by the defence that the woman had just expressed a wish to forgive her partner and withdraw her criminal complaint.

An arraignment on domestic violence charges led to an impromptu courtroom discussion this morning and a joint appeal to the legislator by the presiding magistrate, prosecutor and defence lawyers to revisit recent changes to the law concerning domestic violence.

A 21-year old construction worker was arraigned before magistrate Ian Farrugia earlier today, accused of two incidents of violence involving his former partner and members of her family.

Senior Inspector Trevor Micallef, prosecuting, told the court that the man had caused a rowdy disturbance outside his former partner’s home, damaging her front door. He had slightly injured her in a previous incident on Sunday evening. 

In court today, the victim, black eye clearly visible, sat on a bench close to where the accused was standing. Before the sitting got underway the two were chatting amicably to one another.

Through his lawyers Franco Debono and Anthony Stellini, the man pleaded not guilty to a number of charges, including causing the woman and her family to fear violence, driving without a licence and insurance cover, slightly injuring his victim, threatening her and damaging her front door. 

He was further charged with breaching the peace, violating his bail conditions and recidivism.

At a point during the sitting, the court was told by the defence that the woman had just expressed a wish to forgive her partner and withdraw her criminal complaint. Inspector Micallef voiced his frustration at the fact that the woman had first rushed to involve the police, only to change her mind without informing them.

 Since the recent changes to the law, cases of domestic violence have mushroomed, Inspector Micallef continued, referring to how social workers were being called in to assess potential victims, who would need to testify before a magistrate at any time of day or night once their case was deemed “high risk.” “Everything is now high risk”, he said. Those identified in high risk cases had to be arraigned under arrest.

“That’s the kind of respect the police get! Had she informed us, the man could at least have been arraigned under summons, instead of being arrested,” said the Inspector, decrying the waste of time and resources which this had caused.

Defence lawyer Franco Debono said he embraced the sentiment of the opposing counsel and together with Magistrate Farrugia, appealed to the authorities to make amendments to the current legal setup which, they said, could potentially give rise to a breach of constitutional rights. 

After inviting the accused’s partner to declare under oath that she had forgiven him and wished to withdraw her complaint, the magistrate upheld the defence’s request for bail against a deposit of €2,000 and a personal guarantee of €3,000. The man was also ordered to observe a curfew and to sign a bail book three times a week.

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