MP calls for revision of law following Dorianne Camilleri's imprisonment

Nationalist MP Antoine Borg says that legislation should be revised to either reduce minimum prison sentence term or increase discretion of judges to hand down suspended sentences in similar cases

MP had promised on Facebook to raise schoolteacher's 'disproportionate prisone sentence' in Parliament
MP had promised on Facebook to raise schoolteacher's 'disproportionate prisone sentence' in Parliament

The five-year prison sentence handed down in the case of a 34-year-old schoolteacher who ran over two elderly people in Attard in 2011, causing the death of one of them and grievously injuring the other, seemed eminently disproportionate, opposition MP Anotoine Borg said on Tuesday.

Dorianne Camilleri was jailed after being found guilty of the involuntary homicide of Alfred Zahra, 64 in May 2011 when she was driving along Mdina Road near Rabat on her way home from a day’s teaching at a school in Sta Venera, as well as of grievously injuring his sister, Carmela Zahra, 75 years old at the time.

Speaking in Parliament during adjournment time, Borg said that – like many other people – he was surprised at the sentence and the length of imprisonment imposed, though he had later been informed by legal experts that, as things now stood, the court had no other option.

The defence had based its case around the contention that the Zahras had been negligent in how they crossed the road, leading to the accused to find herself in an instant, unexpected, unpredictable and inevitable emergency.

The court said the evidence indicated that the elderly couple had crossed from the pavement and not from the centre strip, as had been claimed and, as she had said that she would never have expected someone to try and cross from there, deduced that the woman had not been keeping a proper lookout.

After examining case law on the issues of dangerous driving, negligence, the duties of pedestrians and those of drivers, as well as bearing in mind the inconsistencies in the accused’s testimony, the Court said that the only possible penalty it could hand down was a custodial sentence.

By all accounts, Camilleri was unlucky to have also injured the man’s sister and thus triggering the higher prison sentence, which sparked public outcry and plans for petitions. The legislation applying in this case was amended in 2009.

Social media came alive on Friday and throughout the weekend with declarations of sympathy and solidarity with the teacher soon after news of the sentencing made it online.

Borg had also taken to Facebook and immediately declared his intention to challenge the minimum five-year sentence for such cases and to ensure that “common sense prevails”.

He said that without going into the merits of the case, he was recommending that the minimim prison sentence be reduced.

“If this is not possible, maybe the legislation could be revised to increase the discretion of judges to hand down suspended sentences for up to five-year terms,” he said.

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