Malta footballer released on bail after appealing harassment conviction

Clifford Gatt Baldacchino has been released on bail after appealing a 15-month prison sentence he was handed for harassing his former girlfriend and breaching a protection order

Clifford Gatt Baldacchino
Clifford Gatt Baldacchino

Malta national team football Clifford Gatt Baldacchino has been released on bail, after appealing a 15-month prison sentence handed to him earlier this week.

The Gzira United centre-back was on Tuesday found guilty of harassing his former partner. He admitted to misusing his mobile phone, causing his former partner to fear violence and harassing her.

Gatt Baldacchino was also found guilty of recidivism after he broke a protection order imposed by the courts last month. The decision was appealed by his lawyers on Wednesday.

Lawyers representing Gatt Baldacchino told the court during a bail hearing on Friday that his career would be ruined by the “excessive” sentence.

The defence argued that Gatt Baldacchino could not accept that his two-year relationship had ended, and that he needed professional help to get over it and overcome an arduous period in his life.

After all, they argued, as a national team footballer, Gatt Baldacchino “rendered a service to the state”.

Defence lawyer Mark Vassallo said his client was going through a traumatic period, especially during his experience in prison over the last two weeks. Professional psychological help would get him back on track, he insisted.

“He admitted to having committed a series of mistakes when the relationship came to an end and he would not take no for an answer,” Vassallo said.

He added that 15 months in prison did not make sense especially in view of this punishment ruining the accused’s career and life. “At least we should try to save him,” he said, adding that the sentencing had been hasty. 

The strong presence of the accused’s family in the courtroom was testament to the man’s supportive family background and other support system of friends and relatives, the defence said.

The prosecution said that it would not object to bail as long as there were strict conditions Gatt Baldacchino had to adhere to.

He was granted bail shortly after the hearing under a number of conditions, including a 10pm curfew, with the exception of days when he is playing football; that he not contact his former partner, either in person or by phone; not travelling without the permission of the court; and that he keep living his current residence.

The court also assigned Gatt Baldacchino a probation officer and ordered that he be examined by a psychiatrist.

He was ordered to pay a €3,000 bail bond and a personal guarantee of €4,000. He was also ordered to deposit his passport and identity card in court.

Gatt Baldacchino is being represented by lawyers Edward Gatt, Mark Vassallo and Jean Paul Sammut.

Madame Consuelo Scerri Herrea is presiding. 

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