[WATCH] Valletta man charged with Floriana arson attack

The arch was intentionally set ablaze in the early hours of the morning last month

33-year-old Bjorn Grima was charged in court on Thursday with arson in connection with the destruction by fire of a historical arch in Floriana last month
33-year-old Bjorn Grima was charged in court on Thursday with arson in connection with the destruction by fire of a historical arch in Floriana last month
[WATCH] Valletta man charged with Floriana arson attack

A man from Valletta has been charged with arson in connection with the fire that consumed a historical arch in Floriana.

The 120-year-old festive arch in Floriana known as l-Ark ta' San Publiju was reduced to cinders last month, after it was intentionally set on fire. The arch was burnt to cinders in the early hours of Saturday 27 April, with the fire lasting 90 minutes until firefighters brought the blaze under control.

Inspector Saviour Baldacchino told magistrate Audrey Demicoli that footage from over 50 CCTV cameras were examined. This led to the identification of the numberplate of a car connected to the crime and then, its owner. The car’s route to the crime scene was very particular and this matched up perfectly with the mobile phone data, said the inspector, adding that the accused’s small stature was the same as that of the man in the footage.

(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

33-year-old taxi driver Bjorn Grima from Valletta was subsequently arrested and charged with arson, causing damage to four cars, destruction of cultural heritage, defacing a public monument and recidivism.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges before magistrate Audrey Demicoli this morning and requested bail.

Lawyer Franco Debono said that the man in the footage could not be identified. The identification was made on the basis of the numberplate and phone localisation data, said the inspector. But the police had not established who was driving, suggested Debono. The inspector said that the car keys and mobile phone were found in the man’s possession.

Neither had the police established that the man’s phone had been on his person at the time of the commission of the crime, suggested the lawyer, although the inspector was adamant that the police were certain they had the right man.

Inspector Jeffrey Scicluna objected to bail due to the gravity of the crime and due to the possibility of him tampering with witness evidence, as well as the criminal character of the accused.

Lawyer Franco Debono made lengthy submissions on bail, arguing that the law imposed conditions to ensure that the accused appeared for sittings. The court could only withhold bail in cases of crimes against the safety of government or murder, he said, quoting from the law. “Otherwise the presumption of innocence is pointless,” the lawyer said. Even if found guilty and having filed a pending appeal, the accused is not incarcerated, argued Debono, saying that his was even more relevant upon arraignment.

The court, after deliberating for some time, granted the man bail against a deposit of €7,000 and a personal guarantee of €7,000.

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