Court hears how man set fire to front door for ‘shot of heroin’
After finally turning up for his trial by jury, Martin Marco Baldacchino yesterday pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him. The courts heard how he had allegedly been commissioned to commit the arson attack in exchange for “a shot of heroin.”
Mr Baldacchino was charged with setting a building door on fire on 24 August, 2011, voluntarily causing damage to third party property and committing a crime while being conditionally discharged for another crime.
According to reports, the accused set fire to a door on Triq il-Kbira, Qormi, and that the damage was estimated to be more than €2,000.
He was out on bail and did not turn up for the sitting that was set to start at 9am last Monday, resulting in the courts ordering the detention of the accused for 60 days.
Both parties to the case began to make their submissions, while Mr Justice Antonio Mizzi presided over the case.
The case was investigated by inspectors Alexandra Zammit and Anthony Portelli while lawyers from the Attorney General’s office Elaine Mercieca and Ann Marie Cutajar are prosecuting.
Mr Baldacchino claims to be a reformed drug addict and arsonist. The incident which Mr Baldacchino has been accused of took place on 24 August, 2011, at around 3pm when he allegedly set fire to the door of a house in Qormi.
He also pleaded guilty to intentionally causing harm to third party property and breaching the terms of a conditional discharge.
Arson carries a possible maximum jail term of 12 years.
Representing the accused is lawyer Franco Debono, who informed the court that the defence would appeal the decision to detain his client for 60 days for not turning up for his hearing. Dr Debono also apologised on behalf of his client.
He urged a reduction in harshness in punishment for arson crimes, and stressed that according to previous practices, the softer law should be applied when handing down judgement.
Dr Debono pointed out that previous arson cases that were far more serious by placing the life of third parties in direct danger, had resulted in the issuing of suspended sentencing. He cautioned against a situation where such decisions are taken by the Attorney General, who he describes as being inconsistent by applying one article of law at times, and other articles at other times.
The prosecution pushed for deliberation to be based on the case before the jury, and stressed that the accused knew of the woman, her husband who had come home from nightshift as a warden at the Corradino Correctional Facility and their son who was on the roof with two GO plc employees.
It was said that the accused was under the influence of drugs at the time, however the prosecution insisted that he had to have known of the people inside the residence at the time he set the door on fire.
The damage done to the house, and the scare given to the people inside, was all for “a shot of heroin”, the prosecution argued.
It was decided that the accused could not benefit from a suspended sentence since he did not avail himself of the right to enter into an early guilty plea. But Mr Justice Mizzi claimed that the act was unintentional, because the accused had intentionally ingested the illegal drugs.
The court put off the case to 14 December for judgement.
Lawyers Franco Debono and Gavin Gulia are defence counsel.
Lawyers Elaine Mercieca and Anne Marie Cutajar from the AG’s office prosecuted.