Acquitted of stealing car, selling parts

The court ruled that the man’s statement to the police was inadmissible and that there did not remain enough evidence for a conviction

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A man has been acquitted of dismantling a stolen car and selling its parts after the court ruled the man’s statement to police as inadmissible.

Mark John Desira of Zejtun was accused of stealing parts from a BMW, handling stolen goods and breaching a probation order.

The BMW had been stolen from a street in Fgura and was found two months later, abandoned in Zejtun and with missing parts. The missing parts included the bonnet, the front bumper, the registration plates, two mirrors, the battery and some personal effects which had been inside the car at the time of the theft.

A palm print matching the accused was found on the vehicle and he was arrested, admitting during interrogation that he had taken the parts and used them on his brother’s car before selling the vehicle to a man from Tarxien.

He however denied stealing the vehicle and in the course of the police’s investigation, it emerged that two other persons Wilton Gatt and Marley Cassar had stolen the BMW.

There was no evidence of an agreement involving the accused who was then arraigned on charges of theft and receiving stolen goods.

The defence had argued that the accused’s statement was inadmissible due to the lack of legal assistance during the interrogation. It also argued that the car was a res derelicta - an abandoned thing which consequently could not be stolen.

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja made reference to previous judgments, in particular that of Christopher Bartolo vs the Attorney General et in which the Constitutional Court had confirmed that statements taken without legal assistance are to be expunged from proceedings.

The court noted that even if the statement were to be expunged, it still had to analyse whether the remaining evidence was sufficient to secure a conviction.

A witness had testified that a person with the surname Desira had sold him a BMW with a detached bumper for €600, but had not recognised the accused. 

The only evidence tying the accused to the stolen car was his palm print which the court said was circumstantial and not direct. The car had been abandoned in a publicly accessible place for a long time, observed the magistrate.

Without the statement of the accused, the palm print alone could not lead the court to an unequivocal conclusion that it had been stolen by the accused as it could have been made by the accused and the car then dismantled by another person.

The court acquitted the man of the charges.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia were defence counsel