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