Detention at Mount Carmel hospital unlawful without change in law

Magistrate Joe Mifsud refused to recommend that an arrested person be detained at Mount Carmel hospital, stating that the courts had been wrongly sending people to the institution for decades

Mount Carmel Hospital
Mount Carmel Hospital

A magistrate has refused to recommend that an arrested person be held at Mount Carmel hospital, saying the practise is not legal and that the courts have been sending people there wrongly since 1998.

The startling pronouncement came as Renald Baldacchino, 39, from Qormi was arraigned before magistrate Joe Mifsud on drug dealing charges.

Inspectors Frank Anthony Tabone, Alfredo Mangion and Roderick Agius charged Baldacchino with aggravated cocaine and heroin possession and trafficking the drugs. He was also charged with breaching a suspended sentence and three separate bail decrees.

The court heard how the police had raided a garage used by the accsued and found suspected heroin and crack cocaine, together with weighing scales. The garage was set up “like a shop for drugs” Inspector Frank Anthony Tabone said.

The police also have footage of the accused selling and receiving money for drugs, he said.

Lawyer Noel Bianco, defence counsel to Baldacchino, pleaded not guilty but said he would not be requesting bail at this stage. He asked that the court recommend that the man be held at the forensic unit of Mount Carmel Hospital, a common practice for vulnerable inmates.

But magistrate Mifsud refused to make the recommendation, saying that the Forensic Unit was not a designated prison at law. The court drew attention to legal notice which indicates the places that can be used as prisons, saying that this did not list the forensic ward at MCH.

The courts had been incorrectly sending people there since 1998, the magistrate exclaimed.

Subsidiary Legislation 260.02 did not indicate the Forensic Unit at Mount Carmel, but mentions its predecessor, “Ward 10” which has been closed since 1998. The subsidiary legislation was not amended to include the forensic unit, said the magistrate.

He ordered that this be communicated to the Director General of Courts, the Attorney General, Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Justice.

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