Franco Debono: Vitals compilation may be over in one sitting if police did no follow-up

Franco Debono on TVM’s Xtra: without police interrogation following up on magisterial inquiry, sole evidence presented in court will be report itself

Criminal defence lawyer Franco Debono
Criminal defence lawyer Franco Debono

Criminal defence lawyer Franco Debono has claimed that the compilation of evidence against many of the accused in the Vitals hospitals PPP scandal may yet be summed up in one sitting, if the only evidence presented will be Magistrate Gabriella Vella's inquiry report.

“If it appears that the police did not continue following up the investigation, then I assume that in this case, if the inquiry is the only evidence, the evidence should be closed in a single hearing,” Debono said on TVM's Xtra.

Debono hazarded that by depending solely on the magisterial inquiry without the police carrying out any follow-up interrogations, the process that will lead from evidence compilation to a formal trial, will not take too long.

Speaking about the accused’s right to legal representation and proper scrutiny, Debono questioned how an accused can counter claims made against them as surmised in the magisterial inquiry report, when they were neither interrogated nor cautioned.

“One of the elements of the crime can be refuted. But if the police never called you in, how can your explanation counter it?”

Pressed on how this could potentially change the hearing, or the case itself, Debono said it is up to the court now to decide wether there was a violation of human rights.

“In a money laundering case, the law almost shifts the burden of proof. It requires you to provide a reasonable excuse to exculpate yourself,” Debono said. “If someone was suspected and not informed, a series of rights violations occurred. I believe this constitutes a clear violation of his rights.”

Debono surmised that a potential rights breach could be in the offing once Muscat pleads that he was not interrogated by the police before charges were filed against him.

“If the police did not continue to investigate, then I assume that in this case, with the inquiry report being the sole element of proof, the compilation will be completed within one sitting.”