Drunk hit-and-run driver gets off scot-free following procedural delays

The man hit a parked car while allegedly driving drunk more than two years ago

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

An alleged drunk driver who crashed into a car and drove off has escaped prosecution thanks to a series of delays which rendered the charges time-barred.

Simeon Nikolaw Darakhiev, a Bulgarian man living in St. Paul’s Bay, was accused of committing a hit and run traffic offence on another vehicle in Qawra, after the Police identified him from CCTV footage.

Around a week later Darakhiev was called to the police station, but when he arrived in his car the police noticed he was acting erratically and suspected that he was drink driving. They requested that he submit to a breathalyzer test and the man allegedly refused. 

Darakhiev was eventually accused of causing damages to a third party’s vehicle, driving whilst under the influence of alcohol and refusing to submit to the breathalyzer test.

The defence contested the police version of events, but there was another preliminary and procedural issue. In the charges, the police had mentioned only one date - that of the alleged hit and run incident - and omitted to include the date of when he was summoned to the police station. This necessitated the amendment of the charges, which, in turn, requires the re-notification of the accused with the charges as amended.

In a sitting held last year, the police had attempted to notify the accused with the new charges during the sitting itself, but defence lawyer David Bonello had opposed this and insisted that the accused should be notified using the normal procedure.

After hearing submissions made by both sides, then Magistrate Grazio Mercieca had ruled that the accused should be notified afresh using the normal procedure.

But by the time the normal notification process was completed, two years had elapsed from the commission of the offence.

Further delays, caused by the promotion of the magistrate to judge and the subsequent transfer of the case to magistrate Simone Grech meant that when the accused was notified afresh, all charges were declared time barred and Darakhiev walked free.

Lawyer David Bonello was defence counsel.