Fingerprints not enough to convict man of theft from cars

A man has been acquitted of breaking into three cars after a court ruled that there was still reasonable doubt as to how they got there

A man has been acquitted of breaking into three cars, despite his fingerprints being found on all three vehicles, after a court ruled that there was still reasonable doubt as to how they got there.

33-year-old Simon Borg had been investigated in connection with three reports of theft from vehicles which had taken place between the years 2005 and 2011 in Tarxien, Rabat and Lija.

Borg, who was later charged with the thefts, had told police that he didn’t know or didn’t remember anything about the crimes, but had admitted to having had a drug problem for over 9 years which led him to sometimes break into cars to finance his habit.

He was charged with three counts of theft, voluntary damage to third party property and committing the crimes during the operative period of a suspended sentence. He was also accused of recidivism.

Two of the victims had refused to testify and the third had not witnessed the theft and could not identify the accused as having committed it.

The evidence given by a court-appointed fingerprint expert was central to the prosecution’s case, as the expert had found prints matching the accused in all three of the cars. But magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit was not convinced, saying that not all circumstantial evidence was of equal probatory value and that it was the court’s job to “weigh each piece of evidence” to conclude as to whether the case had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

While the accused had produced no evidence to rebut the evidence, the court observed that the fingerprints had all been lifted from the outside of the vehicles which had been parked in public areas. This created a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused in the mind of the court, leading to his acquittal.

Inspector Darren Buhagiar prosecuted. Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri appeared for Borg.