The Malta Independent 20 September 2019, Friday

Detainee tells court he ‘did not know it was an escape’; remanded in custody

Wednesday, 21 August 2019, 13:55 Last update: about 30 days ago

A detainee at the Safi Detention Centre has pleaded not guilty to escaping from the centre, insisting that he ended up outside the facility “by mistake” and that he “didn’t know it was an escape.”

Mousa Mubarak, 19, from Sudan, who resides at the repurposed Safi barracks was accused of escaping from custody on August 20 and with causing criminal damage to the Detention Centre.

Inspector Roderick Attard said the man had broken a door, causing €400 damage. He was arrested at 1:30am yesterday.

But the court pointed out that no estimate of the damages allegedly caused by the accused had been presented. Defence lawyer Joe Brincat, appearing as legal aid to the accused, said that in the absence of proof of value being exhibited by the prosecution, the court should follow the de minimis principle and declare the damage to be so small as to not merit judicial attention.

The court pointed out that at this stage it had “no evidence of anything.”

Inspector Attard explained that Mubarak had been picked up by the police near the airport. Asked by the magistrate whether he was found inside or outside the detention centre, the accused said he was outside.

“Myself and another person were sent out of detention into a shipping container,” he said. The door to the container was open, but there was a second door guarded by staff that limits access to the outside, explained the accused. He had forced open that door, climbed over a fence and escaped, he said, speaking through an interpreter, apparently admitting the charges.

But Mubarak balked when told that there was a minimum punishment of 6 months imprisonment tied to the charge, by the court. “Is he going to admit to this crime which is punishable by at least 6 months jail?” asked the magistrate.

“I was hungry and I didn’t know what I was doing. This is why I ended up outside. It was a mistake,” said the accused.

The court-appointed interpreter, after several minutes of dialogue with the accused, explained that the man wasn’t admitting to having escaped but to having been found outside.

The court asked how, if he had climbed a fence and broken a door, he had not therefore escaped.

“I went outside but I didn’t know that it was an escape,” came back the reply.

His lawyer submitted that there was no admission and a plea of not guilty had to be entered. Bail was not requested.

The court said it had no option but to order that the man be remanded in custody and order the case to be sent to the registrar of courts to be assigned according to law.

 

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