Man charged with assaulting PN supporter at Ħamrun feast

Accused remanded in custody after being charged with assaulting Nationalist Party supporter after Opposition leader Bernard Grech was refused entry to the party’s club during the Ħamrun feast

Nationalist leader Bernard Grech and his wife Anne Marie watch on from the balcony of the St Joseph band club in Ħamrun
Nationalist leader Bernard Grech and his wife Anne Marie watch on from the balcony of the St Joseph band club in Ħamrun

A 48-year-old PN supporter from Ħamrun has been charged with grievous bodily harm in connection with an assault which happened at the Ħamrun PN club earlier this month, after the PN leader Bernard Grech was refused entry.

Inspector Sarah Kathleen Zerafa arraigned Andrew Attard before magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech on Monday afternoon.

Attard, who said that he used to tend horses, but was currently unemployed, pleaded not guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm on Noel Mifsud Bonnici during the San Cajetan feast celebrations in the town on August 13.

Inspector Zerafa explained that Mifsud Bonnici had told officers that he had been attacked, but could not be questioned at the time due to the severity of his injuries, which had required surgery.

When questioned later that week, Mifsud Bonnici had told the police that Attard had attacked him together with another man, and had also identified a number of other individuals who might be able to shed more light on the assault.

Attard was taken into custody yesterday when he went to sign a bail book at the Ħamrun police station, she said.

Defence lawyer Charles Merceica asked that Attard be released on bail.

Inspector Zerafa objected to the request on the grounds that witnesses were yet to testify as well as due to the untrustworthiness of the defendant, who had previous convictions and had already been out on bail when the alleged incident occurred.

Lawyer George Camilleri, representing Mifsud Bonnici as parte civile, added that the investigation was still ongoing and a number of suspects had yet to be identified and charged about the same incident. Bail should be withheld to safeguard the integrity of the case, the court was told.

Cross-examined by Mercieca, Inspector Zerafa confirmed that the incident had taken place almost one month ago. Attard was arrested yesterday at the police station and had released a statement denying involvement in the fight, she said.

The court noted that his statement showed that Attard had declined to answer most of the questions put to him during his interrogation.

The court overruled a number of Mercieca’s questions, deeming them to deal with the merits of the case, which would be dealt with at a later stage, and not bail.

Replying to a question by the defence, the inspector confirmed that the alleged breach of bail was the alleged assault itself, adding that her investigation had not revealed Attard to have breached any of his other bail conditions.

Mercieca suggested that the grievous bodily harm charge had been pressed because the victim had suffered a torn ligament as a result of the incident. Reading out from the medical report, the court observed that the injury was deemed grievous as the victim was unable to fully extend his right leg. The other injuries were mostly abrasions, noted the magistrate.

“He couldn’t even walk!” Camilleri interjected, before being brought to order by the court. Mifsud Bonnici was discharged from hospital around three weeks ago, said the inspector, in reply to a question from the magistrate.

Mercieca argued that the defendant had demonstrated his trustworthiness, even after the incident. “We are dealing with a case where everyone who reads the news knows what happened and who was involved. Andy has known about the circumstances for almost a month and nothing happened in that time.”

The lawyer argued that the grounds for withholding bail were absent, adding that the man’s previous bail conditions had been issued in connection with a messy separation case.

“The fact was arrested while signing his bail book showed that Attard had demonstrated that he was trustworthy,” submitted Mercieca.

From the news coverage of the incident, Attard could have reasonably reached the conclusion that he was under investigation long before his arrest, argued his lawyer, pointing out that notwithstanding this, he had not attempted to speak to, or suborn, any of the witnesses.

Inspector Zerafa told the court that the investigation was ongoing because while being questioned, some of the eyewitnesses had told her that although they had seen the persons who had delivered the blows, they were “unable to identify them.” Still images extracted from CCTV footage of the club were not clear enough to identify the aggressors, she added.

The inspector confirmed that no identity parade had been carried out, as this method had been shown to be unreliable. Only the victim had identified the defendant so far, she confirmed to the court.

The victim had also been spoken to by the police, but had initially been in too much pain to help. When spoken to a second time later on, he had identified the defendant by name. At the time of the incident, he had only described a second man.

Magistrate Frendo Dimech pointed out that in his statement, Mifsud Bonnici had described his assailants as kickboxers. “Does this man look like a kickboxer to you?” the magistrate asked the inspector, pointing to the wiry man standing in the dock. “So brutal was the beating that the man thought that he had been attacked by trained fighters,” Camilleri interjected.

The magistrate then left the courtroom and retired to chambers to deliberate on bail.

When she returned a few minutes later, the request was rejected on the grounds that the alleged victim and other eyewitnesses were yet to testify. 

However, in view of the fact that the incident had happened a month ago, the magistrate urged the prosecution to summons the eyewitnesses as soon as possible to mitigate any potential risk of evidence being lost.