[This article is not available on-line so far.]
14.10.2012 by Karl Stagno-Navarra
Magistrate Carol Peralta had no option but to retract his claim that the media created a “spin” and “misinterpreted” the judgement he handed down last week, when he conditionally discharged a man who was found guilty of causing permanent disability to a tourist when he deliberately ran him over in Mellieħa , concluding that the accused’s actions were provoked by the victim’s taunting.
An irate Magistrate Peralta – who recently returned to the bench after a seven year stint as a UN judge in the Balkans – sent for Malta Today and The Times court reporters on Wednesday and accused them of creating a “spin” over his judgement.
The case concerned Magistrate Peralta’s judgement on the 36-year old Mellieħa resident Alan Gauci, 36 who was let off with a conditional discharge after admitting to causing permanent disability to and Australian tourist in 2004, when he deliberately ran him over with a car at 4am , on the basis that the accused – a Mellieħa resident – had defended his honour after he was called “gay” by the tourist.
Magistrate Peralta said in his judgement that the accused “lives in Mellieħa, and his psyche had a reputation to defend in his village”.
“The incident happened in Mellieħa and before fellow villagers, so the insinuation that the accused was ‘gay’ – even if there is nothing wrong with that – perhaps in the accused’s psyche and the other villagers’, was not acceptable.”
Gauci was conditionally discharged after the court noted that he had been provoked into reacting the way he did, when he drove his Sunbeam vehicle onto Australian national Jeremy Lalic, seriously injuring him and causing him permanent disability.
The incident happened on the night of 21 March 2004 when Gauci and his friends were drinking at the Zap’s Bar in Mellieħa.
Lalic and his friend walked into the bar, and according to the prosecuting police inspector, drank heavily to the extent that they got drunk, and started to make noise and annoy patrons.
Gauci said that he did not react to the gesticulations made by Lalic behind his back which implied he was a gay man, but the prosecuting inspector said he heard saying that “this man [Lalic], deserves to be run over by a car”.
The Australians were subsequently kicked out of the bar, and Gauci left some time afterwards, only to find Lalic and his friend walking up the road.
It was here that Gauci decided to drive into them, hitting Lalic and seriously injuring him.
In its judgement, the Court relied on evidence given by Inspector Michael Mallia, who said that the incident was a result of provocation. “In the circumstances of how things evolved, nothing would have happened had things gone differently.”
But Magistrate Peralta contested the way the judgement was reported by the media, claiming that the controversy which followed had “cost him a promotion,” and went as far as warning the media that from now on, he would want to red the reports before they are published.
He insisted the he was misinterpreted when referring to the community of Mellieħa. “I never pinned it down to Mellieħa, but ti all small village community mentalities,” Peralta said, but later retracted his claim when challenged by Malta Today to read the wording of his judgement, which specifically talks about the Mellieħa community and its mentality.
“You are right, you have a point, I must be more careful in the future,” he said, adding an apology for his outburst.
“You see when I handed the judgement I took into consideration the fact that the incident happened eight years ago, and the accused had a clean record and besides, he was provoked,” Peralta said, adding that he believed it would have been an “injustice” had he handed Gauci an effective jail term or a suspended sentence.
The issue of provocation leading to a crime was raised by Judge Michael Mallia last February when handing a 25-year jail term to Mariano Grixti, 49 of Zurrieq, who was found guilty in a trial by jury of the attempted murder of Joseph Mifsud and his 15-year old son Redeemer.
Grixti shot the two following a heated argument over the building of a boundary wall in a field near Zurrieq in October 2005. Both were critically injured.
The farmer said he fired five shots in self-defense after Mifsud started throwing rocks at him.
In his judgement Mr Justice Mallia said that he was jailing Grixti because “God forbid that we come to a stage where somebody has an argument, and perhaps a stone or two are thrown, and in response someone just grabs a gun and shoots.”
Judge Mallia added that “people of a normal temperament do not behave this way. Should anybody fell aggrieved by anything, they should report the matter to the police and let justice take its course”.