Magistrate's error leads to man's retrial

The court announced that it would be hearing the case again

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

The Court of Criminal Appeal has ordered the retrial of a criminal case, after noting a procedural error by the Court of Magistrates.

48-year-old Mark Zahra had been convicted in 2014, upon his own admission, of stealing jewellery, criminal damage, relapsing and breaching court-imposed conditions in 2005 and was subsequently jailed for 13 months. Zahra had previous convictions for theft. 

That judgment had been subject to two appeals, with the Attorney General asking for Zahra’s punishment to reflect the gravity of the theft and to condemn him to suffer costs and Zahra asking the court to revoke and annul the previous judgment on the basis of contested fingerprint evidence.

The Court of Appeal, presided by madam justice Edwina Grima, had re-examined the acts of the case and noted that the AG had mentioned that the first court had failed to indicate the articles of the law dealing with voluntary damage when finding him guilty of all charges. Although the AG had only wished to have the punishment recalibrated and had not tried to have the sentence annulled, the court said it could not accede to that request when the court of first instance’s mistake brought about the sentence’s nullity.

“This mistake amounts to a failure of a substantial formality which leads to the nullity of the appealed sentence and the Court of Appeal must annul and revoke that sentence and re-hear the case from the beginning on the merits,” said the judge.

The court announced that it will be hearing the case again with the appeal submissions being considered as submissions on the merits.

Superintendent Carmelo Bartolo prosecuted. Lawyer Edward Gatt was defence counsel.