The Malta Independent 19 August 2019, Monday

Six months prison for possession of drugs, reckless driving, and hiding illegal guns

Friday, 19 July 2019, 16:58 Last update: about 30 days ago

A man was jailed for six months after facing nine charges in court, including reckless driving, drug trafficking, being in possession of illegal firearms, disobeying police orders, recidivism, and damage to third-party property.

Police had been chasing a lead in a drug investigation back in 2012. This led them to James Grima, 44, who was stopped by Police in August of that year. 

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Evading officer Trevor Cassar Mallia, who had stood in front of the accused’s car, Grima drove over the pavement, hitting another car in the process. He sped all the way to Triq il-Madonna tal-Gebla in Gzira. 

A chase ensued and the accused drove himself into a dead end. Cassar Mallia saw the accused hurl something out of his car window.

It was later confirmed to be a bag of heroin.

After arresting the accused, police investigated a farm in Ta’ Qali which Grima allegedly visited often. There they found bags containing heroin, cocaine, two hunting rifles hidden under piles of straw, and tubes hidden in the soil containing a total of €60,000. 

Grima’s version of events to police shifted constantly—first saying he never used drugs, then admitting that he did. He also said that the farm wasn’t his and that he rarely visited the property. 

Defence counsel Edward Gatt had called a consultant psychiatrist, Joseph Spiteri, to the witness stand who said that the accused had been in prison before on charges related to prostitution. 

It was in prison that the accused had started using heroin. 

“I can confirm that the accused has a drug problem. He also has an addictive personality and an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He also abuses of alcohol for self-medication. His OCD is so strong that instead of having one box of pills, he needs to have three with him at all times, so that in his mind he is safe that nothing bad will ever happen to him,” Spiteri had said, adding that it was this disorder that exacerbated the accused’s misbehaviour. 

Spiteri also confirmed that the accused seemed to be reforming since his arrest.

Hearing the evidence and all the witnesses, the court said it was not satisfied that the accused’s possession of heroin was aggravated and that he meant to sell it to third parties. 

The accused’s father, Zaren Grima, told the court that the Ta’ Qali farm had been sold to a Ganni Vella, known as ‘Mahmah’ and the money found of the property, €60,000, was given to his son. 

Based on this testimony, the court could not confirm whether that money was procured through criminal activity.

Grima was found guilty of being in possession of two firearms without a license, damage to third-party property, reckless driving, recidivism, and possession of drugs. 

Due to an error on the charge sheet, the court abstained from finding the accused guilty of disobeying police orders. 

“The punishment should not serve as society’s form of vindication. One of the reasons for punishment is to stitch the social fabric that has been ripped,” the court said, adding that since the accused seemed to be on the path to reformation, it wanted to make sure that it couldn’t stultify him in any way. 

Grima was sentenced to six months imprisonment and the court ordered the confiscation of his weapons and the destruction of the drugs found.

Neville Camilleri was presiding magistrate. 

Superintendent Johann Camilleri prosecuted. 

Edward Gatt was defence counsel.

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