The Malta Independent 6 October 2022, Thursday
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Lawyer of man accused of biting constable claims his client was victim of police brutality

John Cordina Monday, 27 October 2014, 17:27 Last update: about 9 years ago

The 30-year-old man accused of biting a police officer after being stopped for dangerous driving last Saturday was actually the victim of police brutality, his lawyer Robert Abela told a court today.

Dr Abela insisted that the driver of the police car in which the alleged incident took place should be charged with grievously injuring his client, and also accused the police of doing away with evidence that may have incriminated them.

"I thought such cases stopped occurring 30-40 years ago... it is unfortunate that they are still happening now," he maintained.

Ta' Xbiex resident David Calleja, a financial advisor, had been driving in the Sliema Strand when he was stopped by police, who deemed him to be driving recklessly.

The Malta Police Force issued a statement detailing what had happened, in which it claimed that Mr Calleja acted aggressively, refused to take a breathalyser test, ignored police orders and used foul language.

He was subsequently arrested and taken to a police squad car, but according to the police statement, he kicked the driver, tried to escape and banged his head repeatedly against the car window. The police added that he even spit blood at police officers and bit a constable's arm, tearing off part of his skin.

A picture showing the torso of a police officer, with blood stains on his shirt, was also made public.

Mr Calleja faced a total of 17 charges over the incident, including assaulting police officers, slightly injuring PC Roderick Psaila, causing damage to government property, reckless driving and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

When asked to state his client's plea, Dr Abela declared "absolutely not guilty," before accusing the police of grossly distorting the truth.

Mr Calleja's nose was bandaged, and Dr Abela presented a medical certificate showing that it had been broken as evidence. The lawyer also presented his client's blood-stained clothes - prosecuting inspector Jason Sultana originally objected, but relented after Dr Abela said that this objection was due to the fact that the clothes helped confirm the injuries Mr Calleja sustained.

Dr Abela also asked for a photographer to take pictures of the police car Mr Calleja was taken to, to document the bloodstains within, only for Insp. Sultana to point out that the car had been washed. Mr Calleja's parents, who accompanied their son in court, said that the car had been washed immediately after the incident.

He subsequently accused the driver of the car - PC Kevin Decelis - of breaking his client's nose by elbowing his face after he asked where he was being taken.

Dr Abela said that it was unacceptable that PC Decelis was present when the police took his client's statement, and said that Mr Calleja did not sign the transcript of the statement because the police refused to include everything.

What was left out, according to Dr Abela, includes parting words made by the inspector at the end of questioning: "you were handled by sheep, as I wouldn't have just broken your nose,"

Dr Abela said that it was "very interesting" that the car was washed shortly after the alleged incident, noting that the police had destroyed important evidence when police brutality had already been alleged.

He noted that the location of the bloodstains - whether by the window or behind the gear lever - would have helped confirm which version of events was true.

The prosecution objected to a bail request, with Insp. Sultana stating that there was a need for society to learn that assaults on police officers were not acceptable. But Dr Abela then argued that bail was not about judging the crime, but whether there was a risk of evidence being tampered or of absconding.

Dr Abela noted that only the prosecution had tampered with the evidence in this case, and stressed that his client had strong ties to Malta, including a 2-year-old child.

He pointed out that his client's relationship with the mother of his child had ended days before the incident took place, and said that while he was not excusing the client for his own mistakes - including the apparent drunk driving - these did not justify the police officers' reaction.

"I assume that he was not very calm, but to drag him into a police car and elbow him in the face when he asks why is not acceptable," he stressed.

Magistrate Marse-Ann Farrugia ultimately granted bail against a €10,000 personal guarantee, with Mr Calleja's father acting as his guarantor.



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