The Malta Independent 16 December 2019, Monday

Constitutional Court rules statement to police is inadmissible

Thursday, 18 October 2018, 16:28 Last update: about 2 years ago

The case against a man accused of conspiring with others to smuggle 30kg of soap which he thought was cannabis into Malta on a boat looks unlikely to go ahead after a Constitutional court ruled that his statement to police was inadmissible

Marvin Debono was arrested along with three other men in 2009, after police swooped in on a suspected drug smuggling operation. The accused had been arrested together with the other men leaving the area known as l-Irdum ta’ Migra l-Ferha near Mtahleb in two cars after having ostensibly picked up 30kg of cannabis from the beach. The consignment had arrived via dinghy launched from an anchored yacht, the Jolly Roger, which had sailed to Malta from Libya.
A court appointed expert had later discovered that the substance thought to be cannabis was actually soap.

Despite this, the men were charged with, amongst other things, conspiracy to import drugs.

Although the case may appear petty, at law, the crime of conspiracy to traffic drugs is completed the moment the parties agree on a mode of action – in this case to smuggle the drug by the sea-route. Although the “drugs” turned out to be soap, this had no bearing on the particular crime itself, which is punished in the same manner as trafficking - by up to life imprisonment.

In his application to the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction, Debono’s lawyers at the time: Franco Debono, Arthur Azzopardi and Marion Camilleri, had claimed that he was not provided with legal assistance when he was arrested and investigated. The statement he had released, unassisted by legal counsel – upon which the prosecution is expected to have based its case - was therefore inadmissible in view of the now copious case law to this effect.

In his judgment on the matter, Judge Joseph R. Micallef ruled that Debono’s right to a fair hearing had not been breached at this stage, but agreed with the defence and ordered that the statement was to be expunged from the acts of the case against him as it was inadmissible.  

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