Man acquitted, another handed suspended sentence over Marsaskala fight

A Marsaskala fight that ended with one woman's broken nose results in an acquittal and a suspended sentence in court for the two men involved

File photo
File photo

A man from Zabbar has been handed a suspended sentence for grievously injuring a woman by breaking her nose and slightly injuring two other people in a fight, sparked by a long-standing animosity between him and her son

Gavin Spagnol, 24, was sentenced to imprisonment for 4 months, suspended for one year. His co-accused, Alvin Pullicino 29, was cleared of all charges with respect to the incident, which took place on 21 September 2016 in Triq Sant’ Antnin, Marsaskala.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello heard how Christian Muscat and Michelle Muscat were attacked with a screwdriver on 21 September 2016 in Marsaskala. Spagnol was also injured in the incident, which had been preceded by another violent incident at the Zabbar feast.

In unconnected proceedings, Pullicino and Spagnol stand charged with dousing a woman with petrol as she sat in her car with her 10 year-old son, threatening to set her alight.

Michelle Muscat had told the court how she had found her son pulling out a screwdriver that was stuck in his left shoulder, while Spagnol held him by the neck. She had tried to intervene to help her son, but was hit from behind, in the head. She fell to the floor, where someone kicked her in the face and broke her nose. She, too, was stabbed twice with the screwdriver. She had seen Pullicino grab a rock and threaten to throw it at her, she said.

But Spagnol’s girlfriend had told the court that there was no third party involvement in the fight in which the Muscats were injured. Answering a specific question, the witness had stated that Alvin Pullicino had not been present during the incident. This version of events was corroborated by the first police officers on the scene, who were not told about Pullicino.

Having heard the evidence, the court said it was “very far from being morally convinced” about Pullicino’s involvement in the fight.

But it also said that there could be no such doubt as to the involvement of Spagnol. The court had seen CCTV footage from a nearby establishment which had captured a small part of the fight.

Spagnol’s defence revolved around the claim that his actions had been the result of provocation by  Christian Muscat.

Spagnol and his girlfriend had been aware of the presence of Christian Muscat in the street outside the shop where they were standing and their nervous behaviour was caught on CCTV, whilst Muscat was seen continuously staring at the door and calling someone on his mobile phone.

The magistrate said she was not convinced that the presence of the Muscats outside the shop was a coincidence. The footage showed that, contrary to what Christian Muscat had testified, he had been punched in the face by Spagnol the moment he opened the door. Spagnol had previously been seen peeking around the door, as if waiting for someone.

The Court stated that Spagnol’s actions had been justified, in view of the history of confrontations between the two men and their families and that he was right to anticipate the danger of aggression or confrontation with Muscat, who had been calling third parties to come to the scene.

But the magistrate made it clear that it was only this initial reaction by Spagnol which was sufficiently provoked by Christian Muscat’s lingering and gestures. There was no other evidence which convinced it that   Spagnol had been provoked by Muscat when he subsequently attacked him and threw him out of the establishment, after throwing the punch.

It did not appear that Christian Muscat had invited Spagnol to fight after being punched by the accused and neither did it appear that he had beat up Spagnol, “but rather the contrary.”

Spagnol’s was not the reaction of a person of ordinary temperament in the circumstances, said the magistrate.

Magistrate Montebello observed that at the time of the commission of the crime, legal amendments which significantly increased the punishments for the crimes of bodily harm had not come into effect, and so was constrained to award punishment according to the law in force at the time.

All this, together with Spagnol’s unblemished criminal record at the time, meant that having found Spagnol guilty of grievous and slight bodily harm on the person of Michelle Muscat and slight bodily harm on the person of Christian Muscat using arms improper. He was sentenced to 4 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months. The court also bound him not to approach the Muscats against a guarantee of €1500.

Superintendent Josric Mifsud prosecuted. Lawyers Alfred Abela and Rene Darmanin appeared for Pullicino. Lawyer Ishmael Psaila appeared for Spagnol.

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