Liam Debono back in the dock for driving without a licence

Liam Debono, charged with running over Simon Schembri and now breaching his €50,000 bail when he was caught driving without a license appeared agitated in court

Liam Debono, accused of intentionally running over a police officer returns to court as he was caught driving a car without a license
Liam Debono, accused of intentionally running over a police officer returns to court as he was caught driving a car without a license

A young, unlicensed motorist who had maimed a police officer when he dragged him under his car last year in a hit and run incident was back in the dock this morning, charged with once again driving without a licence and insurance, as well as breaching his €50,000 bail.

Liam Debono, 18, was arraigned before Magistrate Joe Mifsud today, after police found him behind the wheel of a car in Luqa yesterday.

The 18-year-old was stopped by traffic police in Luqa at around 5.45pm as he was behind the wheel of a vehicle, despite having been barred from holding a driving licence after he was charged with the attempted murder of PC Simon Schembri, whom he ran over and dragged under his car, causing him to lose an arm.

Inspectors Fabian Fleri and Pierguido Saliba charged Debono with driving without a licence and insurance, breaching a court sentence, breaching bail.

Debono had been released on bail for the police officer’s attempted murder last September against a deposit of €10,000 and a personal guarantee of €40,000.

Apart from the attempted murder charge, Debono - who was 17 at the time of the crime - is facing another 46 charges, after dragging Schembri for a distance under his car during the incident which happened in May 2018.

The accused said that his lawyer Franco Debono could not be present and so legal aid Lawyer Victor Bugeja was appointed for today’s sitting. However, a representative of Debono's law firm later told the MaltaToday that the accused is no longer their client.

Inspector Fabian Fleri said that yesterday a CID officer noticed the accused driving a Fiat Uno near Luqa and called for backup. As soon as the accused heard the sirens and saw CID cars he pulled into a side street and tried to climb into the passenger seat, he said.

A police sergeant took the stand. He had been at work till 5pm yesterday and had another shift from 6 to midnight. At around 5:30 he had been driving his personal car in Vjal l-Avjazzjoni in Luqa and had gone around the roundabout. “I spotted a beige Fiat Uno cross my path and looked at the driver. He caught my eye because he was sitting very low in the seat. I recognised him as Liam Debono.”

The sergeant had been part of the investigating team in the attempted murder case. He followed the car and contacted the police control room.  The Fiat pulled into triq Sant Andrija and turned right. The sergeant relayed the car’s whereabouts to the control room. An RIU car crossed in front of them and missed the car. Debono, spooked by the presence of police, turned into Mikelang Sapiano street and stopped.

The sergeant observed Debono jumping into the passenger seat and the other person walking around the car.

Debono protested to the police that he was being taken home having just signed his bail book, but the quick-thinking police officer had already snapped a photograph of the man in the driver’s seat with his mobile phone.

Debono had been alone in the car when the police arrived, the other person, a certain Jason Zammit, was still opening the driver side door, said the Inspector. Zammit had later told the police that Debono had been driving, but only briefly.

Debono appeared agitated whilst the officer was testifying, gesticulating to his lawyer who was speaking to him.

Inspector Fabian Fleri testified that some weeks prior the police had been informed that Debono was driving a Toyota and a BMW belonging to two girls, who are Zammit’s daughters. An order to stop the cars was issued.

Fleri said that the accused had been spoken to by the police and given his rights. He had spoken to a lawyer, but opted to give a statement unassisted. Debono claimed to have driven vehicles only in private roads. His father said that the accused would not always sleep at home, but would sometimes sleep over at Jason Zammit’s house in contravention of his bail conditions. Zammit at first denied this, but confronted with the father’s evidence, exercised his right to silence, said the Inspector.

Fleri added that the man had also been banned from driving for 5 years.

Magistrate Mifsud observed that he had not granted the accused bail during his initial arraignment but that this decision had been overturned by the Criminal Court.

The accused pleaded not guilty. Bail was not requested and the accused was remanded in custody.

Magistrate Mifsud said that the case would have to continue to be heard by him as it was a breach of bail conditions which he had granted.

The court said that the courts should keep in mind the rights of society as well as those of the accused. Breaching bail amounts to a challenge to the administration of justice, said the court.

The case was put off till Wednesday 29th May for the conclusion of evidence.