The Malta Independent 10 April 2020, Friday

Man who robbed singer at knifepoint has sentence reduced

Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 17:11 Last update: about 3 months ago

A man who robbed a female rock singer and her friend at knifepoint two years ago has had his sentence reduced on appeal, after a judge declared most of the testimony unreliable.

In 2018 Munir Mohamed Ali Gammudi had originally been accused of the attempted murder of Michaela Attard, theft aggravated by violence, time and value of the objects stolen, carrying a knife during the commission of a crime against the person and recidivism.

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The Court of Magistrates had cleared Gammudi of the knife charges and the attempted murder charge had subsequently been withdrawn by the Attorney General, but Gammudi was found guilty of the rest and jailed for 3 years, the court also imposing a protection order in favour of Attard and her friend.

But Gammudi’s lawyer, Marc Sant, had filed an appeal against this judgement, arguing that he should not have been found guilty, on account of the fact that he was “psychologically disturbed.” The punishment inflicted on the man was also too severe, argued the lawyer.

Madame justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, in her decision on the appeal, observed that “it is a state of fact that the prosecution…produced a number of witnesses, but in the substance of their testimony it did not emerge that the appellant had carried out the crime of aggravated theft.”

“To the contrary, when one examines the witness evidence in detail, more serious doubts and suspicions arise as to how consistent the victim had been in her testimony.”

The prosecution had simply relied on the victim’s say-so when quantifying the value of the objects allegedly stolen and had not sought to obtain receipts or appoint an expert to establish this value.

“Therefore the first court found itself in a position where it didn’t have an indication of the value, bearing in bind that it only had the version of the injured party which one cannot say is credible and reliable in view of the several times in which she was stopped by that court and warned about the consequences of lying under oath.” Neither had the victim been assertive about what had actually been stolen, saying things like “approximately” and “maybe”, noted the judge. These did not prove beyond reasonable doubt, said the court, concluding that therefore the aggravating factor of value did not subsist.

On the aggravation of violence, the court observed that the victim had claimed to have been attacked with a penknife, with which the accused had allegedly tried to stab her with several times. The court was not convinced about this either, pointing out that “had the injured party’s version been convincing and true, there would be no doubt that the original charges against the appellant…would be dropped by the Attorney General.”

The prosecution had failed to present a third party to confirm that there was a dangerous and armed individual at the scene. The two bouncers on duty at the time had told the court that they had not seen anything in the appellant’s hands at the time and hadn’t even recognised him in court.
Neither had the girl accompanying Attard recognised the knife used in the attack, although she had said it was similar. “In any case, her version should have raised a doubt which should go in favour of the accused in criminal matters,” said the court.

No fingerprints had been taken from the knife and so it could not be ascertained whether it was the accused or another man who was present at the time, who had wielded it.

No CCTV footage had been exhibited, said the judge, which meant that it could not be established beyond reasonable doubt that the crime had occurred at night – which was another aggravating factor to the charges.

There were too many contradictions and equivocations in the evidence, including those of eyewitnesses, ruled the judge, clearing Gammudi of the relative aggravations to the theft charge.

The judge observed that the appellant had been the subject of “disturbing psychological episodes” in the past which “certainly did not affect him positively.”

But she also noted that Gammudi had just been released from prison for theft at the time when the theft occurred.

The Court of Criminal Appeal confirmed the part of the sentence of the first court in which guilt was found over theft aggravated by time and violence, but overturned the conviction on the aggravating factor of value. For this reason, it reduced Gammudi’s sentence from 3 years imprisonment to 18 months, from which the time he spent under preventive arrest was to be deducted.

The judge ordered that a copy of the sentence be sent to the Commissioner for the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Mental Disorders and that the Prison Director safeguard his health in view of his mental health problems.

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