The Malta Independent 15 April 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Prison error - Find the problem and fix it

Saturday, 6 March 2021, 08:31 Last update: about 2 months ago

A man spent an extra four months in a prison ward and the authorities do not seem to be batting an eyelid over the incident.

Fingers have been pointed in all directions and the parties involved have tried to shed the blame, but the unfortunate fact is that the ‘victim’ got the short end of the stick and nothing, it seems, will be done to rectify the situation.


The case revolves around a Somali man who had been charged with attempted robbery. The court had cleared the man of all criminal responsibility because the man was declared to have been in a state of insanity when the crime took place in 2018.

The court had ordered that the man be given psychiatric treatment at Mount Carmel Hospital. At the time of the judgment, the man was being kept at the Mount Carmel’s Forensic Ward.

Now it has to be explained that the Forensic Ward, while located on the hospital grounds, is actually an extension of the Corradino prison. It falls under the authority of the correctional services, headed by the controversial Colonel Alexander Dalli.

The Forensic Ward is a prison. It is usually used to house sensitive prisoners – as a means to separate them from the main prison population at Corradino. To give an example, if a judge is imprisoned for whatever reason, he would likely be held at the unit, rather than at Corradino, together with the same people he would have put behind bars.

Sources have explained that while at the forensic unit, the man could not have received the level of care expected by the court because everything would fall under the direction of the prison authorities, rather than the mental care hospital.

The Home Affairs Ministry has defended the prison service, saying it was not notified by the court that the man should have been transferred to the main Mount Carmel facility in October 2020. It pointed out that the judgment only ordered that the Mental Health Commissioner be notified.

But even if this was the case, there is something wrong with the system. At the time the judgment was handed down, the man was under the care and responsibility of the prison service. This means that the correctional services should have known or been informed about the treatment order.

When asked if the man would be compensated for his extended imprisonment, Minister Camilleri said he was not the person to go into such issues.

The fact is someone has to address this issue. If not the minister, then someone else.

This is not the first time that a person has suffered as a result of an ‘administrative’ error.

In September of last year, the exact opposite happened. A prisoner who had been denied bail by the court was let out of jail due to another clerical error.

While we are not conversant on how the prison and court administration works, it is clear that someone needs to find out what the problem is and fix it. At the end of the day, someone is responsible for what happened. Clearly, there are issues – issues that are leading to very serious mistakes happening – and these need to be identified and addressed before another botch-up like this takes place.



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