Inquiry launched after man denied bail is released from prison

Updated 08:59 PM
Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has launched an inquiry after it emerged that a man who was denied bail after being accused of threatening his wife was nevertheless allowed out of prison close to a month ago.

The case was publicised by PN MP Jason Azzopardi, the party’s justice spokesman, who himself called for an urgent inquiry into the matter.

Sejha ghall-Inkjesta Pubblika urgentiWara dak li sehh dalghodu quddiem il-Qorti tal-Magistrati (Malta) qed insejjah 'l…

Posted by Jason Azzopardi on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The man, who had been accused of threatening his wife and of breaching a protection order, had been denied bail on each of the four occasions he requested it. In spite of this, however, he was released from custody on 19 July, shortly after his latest bail request had been denied by Judge Aaron Bugeja.

The magistrate presiding over criminal proceedings was unaware of this until Tuesday, at the end of a sitting. She questioned where the man’s prison escort was as she prepared to adjourn the sitting, only to be informed by the defence that none was needed since the accused was out of custody.

Azzopardi insisted that it was scandalous that only a magistrate’s eye for detail led to this debacle being made public. He also said that a public inquiry was required to determine the truth and establish who should be held responsible – including politically – over the case.

“There are no words harsh enough to condemn this crisis in the field of justice and home affairs. The minister must assume responsibility first and foremost,” Azzopardi said. He added that this case was so unprecedented that the magistrate herself ordered the Home Affairs Minister to explain himself.

The Home Affairs Ministry subsequently confirmed that an inquiry has been launched into the matter, stating that Camilleri acted as soon as he became aware of what had happened. The inquiry will be led by former Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, and must be carried out within 20 days.

The ministry also said that the person concerned appeared to be facing other criminal proceedings, apart from the one referred to by Azzopardi.