The Malta Independent 26 June 2016, Sunday

Court upholds request for drug trafficking case to be heard by Magistrate instead of jury

Monday, 25 January 2016, 16:11 Last update: about 6 months ago

A court has upheld a request for a case related to drug trafficking to be heard in the court of magistrates instead of a jury.

Defence lawyers Franco Debono, Amadeus Cachia and Arthur Azzopardi argued that the case of Ryan Callus, who appeared in court after the police found the accused to be in possession of 470 ecstasy pills and 80 grams of cocaine, should not appear in a criminal court but in front of a court of Magistrates.

According to the defence, this was a ‘borderline’ case which according to the Attorney General sentencing guidelines, should not be heard in a criminal court.

The police had arrested Callus after a number of searches carried out in places which are frequented by the accused. During a search in a farm and a field, the police found a bag with a white substance suspected to be cocaine and a metal can with 40 ecstasy pills in it. The police also found a metal can containing 430 ecstasy and a digital weighing scale next to it.

The law allows the Attorney General to have ‘unfettered discretion' when it comes to assigning certain cases to be heard by either the lower or upper courts. This choice can mean the difference between a minimum sentence of just six months and four years, while maximum penalties may vary from 10 years to life.

Judge Giovanni Grixti upheld the defence’s request based on the number of witnesses presented, the lack of scientific results from experts and the sentencing guidelines. 

In 2014, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici had presented changes in Criminal Code by which the Attorney General will be provided with necessary guidelines which will structure the AG’s discretion on criminal cases.

 

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