Motorist given community service for road rage

The man was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service after the court heard how he had turned his life around

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A motorist who had attacked an off-duty police officer in a road rage incident outside the St Julian’s tunnels two years ago, has been ordered to complete 250 hours of community service after a court heard how he had changed his life since the incident.

In January 2017, 41-year-old Angel Attard from Vittoriosa had stopped his car outside the St Julian’s tunnels and had assaulted a plainclothes policeman who had stopped him for driving dangerously.

Trapped by his seatbelt, which had locked tight, the man was punched in the face for “around three minutes,” according to his girlfriend, who had witnessed the incident from inside her boyfriend’s car.

Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech was told that the accused had followed him inside the car, kneeling on the driver's seat as he continued to punch the officer with both fists.

Attard was later charged with having grievously injured the off-duty officer without intending to place his life at risk, violently resisted a police officer in the execution of a legitimate order, assaulted the officer as well as having driven in a dangerous and reckless manner.

Over a year later Attard had pleaded guilty to all the charges bar that of violently resisting a police officer.

Having meticulously studied the case, the court ruled that there was “an absolute lack of evidence” that at the time of the incident, the victim had been executing a lawful order by a competent authority, thereby acquitting the accused of this charge.

With regards to the other charges to which the accused had registered an admission, the court declared him guilty, observing that it the admission came at a late stage in proceedings.

In its considerations on punishment, the court weighed the accused’s tainted criminal record and all the circumstances of the case on one hand, against a Social Inquiry Report drawn up by a probation officer who had told the court that the man had been making progress on the right path, had held down a stable job and family life.

The court adopted the recommendations of Attard’s probation officer who stated that the accused should “be allowed to continue to live this stability,” and placed him under a 250-hour community service order.

The injured officer had also filed a claim for medical damages in the course of the criminal proceedings and requested compensation for 1,074 missed hours of extra duty, worth €12,199.

The court, however, observed that a number of receipts issued by two private health clinics and a pharmacy, as well as a specialist’s email requesting payment for a psychiatric report, gave no indication of the nature of the medical conditions being treated.

Those documents had not been authenticated by the injured party or a representative of the clinics in question, pointed out the court.

With regards the extra duties missed, the magistrate observed that the officer had not exhibited “the slightest shred of evidence” to support this claim, which had not even been confirmed under oath.

The court thereby turned down the injured party’s claim for damages.

Legal amendments created unexpected loophole, says court.

In its analysis of the case the court highlighted the fact that recent amendments introduced by Act XXXII of 2018 whereby victims of willful crimes against the person liable to a minimum prison term of three years, would have their claim for damages before the criminal court, capped at €10,000 caused prejudice.

The wording of the law affected by the amendments, meant that other victims, who had possibly suffered less grievous injuries, would face no capping of damages, the court explained. Having seen the relative parliamentary debates, the court said that the negative prejudice had clearly not been intended by the legislator.

But the amendments, in the manner they had been introduced, did not reflect this reasoning, commented the magistrate, ordering that a copy of the judgment be served upon the Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government as well as the Attorney General.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Amadeus Cachia were defence counsel.