Man accused of causing woman's death by overdose, still awaiting judgment after 20 years

The courts have been called upon to provide a sufficient remedy to a man who is still awaiting final judgment despite having been charged in 1999

The courts have been called upon to provide an effective remedy to a man who is still awaiting final judgment in a case in which he is accused of causing a woman’s death by overdose twenty years ago.

Lawrence Attard is claiming that he is being denied justice within a reasonable time, after being charged in 1999 with, through negligence, having allegedly supplied the drug that led to the fatal overdose. The victim’s body was later found in the sea off Delimara.

Attard had filed a constitutional reference, leading to a 2004 decision by the First Hall, Civil Court, in its constitutional jurisdiction in which it declared that the delay in the proceedings against Attard constituted a breach of his right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time. That court had also ordered the Magistrates’ Court to deal with the case as swiftly as it could.

In November 2013, final judgment was handed down, and Attard was jailed for six years and fined €10,000.

But that judgment had been declared null by the Court of Criminal Appeal on the grounds that the Magistrates’ Court had cited the wrong provisions of law and the case had to be heard afresh.

20 years after being charged, Attard was still facing criminal proceedings for the same offence, leading him to file a second application for a constitutional reference, in which he argued that his right to a fair hearing was being breached.

In a decision handed down last week, the Court of Criminal Appeal, with Madam Justice Edwina Grima presiding, observed that despite the man having been granted a remedy in 2004, which was that the criminal case be dealt with without further delay, this had not been implemented.

Noting that after 14 years, criminal proceedings were still pending, the court ruled that the accused’s request for a second constitutional reference deserved to be upheld, referring his grievance to First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction.

Attard was represented by lawyer Edward Gatt.