€3,000 in dam­ages to man whose rights were breached

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

The First Hall of the Civil Court in its Con­sti­tu­tional Ju­ris­dic­tion over­turned two judge­ments that had pro­nounced a man guilty of drug traf­fick­ing, given that the only ev­i­dence was his state­ment given while in po­lice cus­tody, which he gave with­out be­ing as­sisted by a lawyer. Trevor Bon­nici claimed that his fun­da­men­tal right to a fair trial was breached.

He had been orig­i­nally ar­rested in July 2004, on sus­pi­cion of be­ing in­volved in drug traf­fick­ing. He was in­ter­ro­gated and, with­out ever speak­ing with a lawyer, re­leased a state­ment, the Court heard.

The Court noted that the state­ment was the only ev­i­dence brought against the ac­cused when charged. The Court of Ap­peal also con­firmed the con­vic­tion. The ac­cused was con­demned to an 18-month prison term, and or­dered to pay a €1,500 fine. Mr Jus­tice Mark Chet­cuti said that al­though Mal­tese law at the time did not pro­vide the right to le­gal as­sis­tance dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion, this right was ac­knowl­edged by the Euro­pean Court of Hu­man Rights. The Court also took into con­sid­er­a­tion that the ac­cused re­fused to sign the po­lice state­ment.

The court noted that there was a breach to his right to a fair trial. The court also awarded the man €3,000 by way of civil dam­ages suf­fered on ac­count of the vi­o­la­tion of his rights.

Lawyers Ja­son Az­zopardi, Eve Borg Costanzi, Kris Busi­etta and Ju­lian Far­ru­gia ap­peared for the ap­pli­cant.

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