Court hears how man set fire to front door for ‘shot of heroin’

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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.

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