Some Maltese residents wrote to the police expecting that an American national who had been charged with weapons offences after a “misunderstanding” about the gravity of gun possession in Malta is accompanied by police officers every time he sets foot on Maltese soil, according to the man’s lawyer. This, the lawyer says, would amount to a waste of taxpayer money.
Gabriel Craig Murphy had received a suspended sentence and was fined €400 after he admitted to carrying a firearm and ammunition through the airport. During the arraignment in January, defense lawyer Joseph Pace had told the court that Mr Murphy had pending civil cases before the Maltese court and was feeling threatened. He had told the court that his client had perhaps passed through “a moment of paranoia.”
In a letter sent to The Malta Independent, Mr Murphy’s US-based lawyer, Lauren Heatwole said that her client had been threatened while still in the US. This is why he travelled to Malta with a licensed gun.
The lawyer said that the court report from 29 January had a number of inaccuracies. She clarified that Mr Murphy was not arrested at the airport. “A review of the security tapes would confirm this, as well as the fact that he was never handcuffed at any point during the incident. Mr Murphy’s arrest occurred after being questioned, which did not take place at the airport,” the lawyer said.
“While it is true that my client was charged with and confessed to three related charges, the incident was a complete misunderstanding on Mr Murphy’s part about the gravity of possession of a gun in Malta and an error in forgetting to declare it at the airport before departure. My client would never intentionally break the laws of Malta while visiting your country.”
Ms Heatwole said Mr Murphy had apologized to Inspector Silvio Magro at the end of the trial, and shook hands with him. “Inspector Magro had favourably noted to the court my client’s complete cooperation in the matter at all times with the Malta Police Force. This, along with his lack of any criminal background, is perhaps the reason Mr Murphy received a sentence that was ultimately well below the general sentencing guidelines.”
The lawyer said Mr Murphy’s handgun had been triple-locked: in his check-in baggage inside a TSA-approved, double-locked handgun travel case. “Despite the discovery of the handgun in the check-in luggage, Mr Murphy was not even going to be charged with the offence at all until it was determined that the 17 rounds of ammunition were within the magazine of the handgun. There are multiple witnesses to these facts and my client’s Maltese counsel was informed of this fact by the Police Inspector at the time the investigation occurred in the afternoon.”
“The issue which led to this incident surfaced when my client failed to check his handgun at the Malta airport, which was later screened and selected for manual inspection. Mr Murphy was later called over the intercom system to page airport security. By that time, he had already checked-in through security and was in the departure lounge awaiting to board his flight, away from the weapon. At no point was the handgun either on his person or easily accessible at the airport.”
The lawyer said that while Mr Murphy was in Malta the gun had always stayed safe in his hotel room, except for the voyage to and from the airport. “Mr Murphy informed the Malta police approximately 8 months earlier (May 2016) that he had previously brought a handgun, duly declared with him to Malta and no problems arose. At no time did Mr Murphy carry or make use of the gun or its ammunition at the airport, and neither did he threaten or intent to harm anyone. My client merely wanted the peace of mind that he held a self-defence option while in Malta – given some very serious threats he had received while in the United States.”
The lawyer said that as a result of these articles (in the Maltese newspapers), “certain residents are purporting to now be fearful of Mr Murphy and propose to waste your taxpayer’s money by requiring a police officer accompany my client at all times when he returns to Malta for a civil litigation matter.”