Man files judicial protest after Constitutional case deferred 13 times

Luke Zerafa

A man who is serving an 18-year jail term over road rage has filed a judicial protest, protesting a fresh breach for his right to a fair hearing after his constitutional case was adjourned for judgement 13 times over a one-and-a-half year span.

Stephen Pirotta, 48, was found guilty of having knifed another driver in a case of road rage during an argument between the two.

In February 2016 Pirotta filed a constitutional application claiming that his right to a fair hearing had been breached during the interrogation stage preceding the attempted murder proceedings.

The man was tried and subsequently convicted. On appeal the jail term was confirmed.

However the principle of legal assistance in the pre-trial phase was established, through European case law and more recently by local jurisprudence such as the judgement delivered Brian Vella vs Attorney General on 14 December 2018. In Vella’s case a statement that was released by the accused at a time when a one-hour consultation with a lawyer was permissible at law, was declared as inadmissible as evidence against the accused.

It was in this light that Pirotta filed a constitutional application, seeking redress.  Judge Joseph Micallef was appointed judge and the case is currently pending before the First Hall, Civil Court. However the case has been adjourned thirteen times which prompted Pirotta to file  a judicial protest against the Attorney General, holding the state responsible for the breach.

The protesting party said that thirteen adjournments over one-year-and-a-half were not acceptable and constituted a blatant breach of the Constitution and the European Convention, while acknowledging that some adjournments for health reasons were justified.

Lawyers Franco Debono, Amadeus Cachia and Marion Camilleri signed the judicial protest.