'Troubled' 16-year-old migrant charged after biting incident

The young man climbed up some metal fencing in a bid to escape from the Safi detention centre on Wedneday afternoon 

The Hal Safi detention centre
The Hal Safi detention centre

A 16-year old migrant who bit a detention service officer as he tried to escape from the detention centre at Safi Barracks has been remanded in custody after admitting to related charges during his arraignment.

Magistrate Audrey Demicoli heard how, at around 4:00pm on Wednesday afternoon, the young man climbed up some metal fencing in a bid to escape from the centre. When detention officers tried to stop him, allegedly by pulling him back down, he became aggressive. 

His lawyer, Stephen Tonna Lowell, said the boy needed help. “This boy has been through a lot and has a difficult character...Indeed he tried to escape from a place that is in itself a nightmare. He committed no terrorist act,” submitted the lawyer.  He alleged that the boy had been physically pulled off the fence by the officers instead of being allowed to climb back down.

This led to a scuffle, during which the accused swore at detention officers, biting one.

The minor was charged with escaping from custody, violently resisting arrest, slightly injuring the detention officer, as well as threatening and insulting officers in the course of their duties and damaging a pair of glasses belonging to one officer.

The accused, aided by an interpreter, pleaded guilty to the charges after speaking to his lawyer.

Due to the particular nature of the case, Tonna Lowell asked the court to order that a pre-sentencing report be drawn up by a probation officer. 

As the boy had no family to provide information required in this report, the probation officer assigned was to consult with lawyer Katrine Camilleri from the Jesuit Refugee Services, a representative of the UN Commissioner for Refugees and the agency for the welfare of asylum seekers, both of whom were present for the arraignment.

The court upheld the request and ordered that the boy be held at the young offenders unit until sentenced.

No request for bail was made.

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