President Marie-Louise Coleiro at a police rally last May
The magistrate presiding over the case of Liam Debono, the 17 year-old charged with the attempted murder of police officer Simon Schembri, said he would have attended a police rally organised in the wake of the incident had he not been prohibited by ethics.
Joe Mifsud made these comments during today’s court proceedings against Debono, after the teenager’s lawyer Amadeus Cachia said his client has been denied the right to be presumed innocent until found guilty.
Cachia referred to a historic police march held in Valletta last May in the wake of the hit-and-run on Schembri, which forced him to amputate an arm.
“This must have been the only protest about an accused that was attended by the President of the Republic,” Cachia argued, warning that Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca’s presence at the protest could influence jurors who will eventually have to decide on Debono’s guilt.
Liam Debono (left) has been charged with the attempted murder of PC Simon Schembri
He also pointed out that Coleiro Preca is herself being sued by victims of a car crash – the infamous Paqpaqli accident of 2015, which left one of its victims with a 99% permanent disability.
However, magistrate Mifsud dismissed this argument, indeed admitting he would have marched “shoulder to shoulder with the President” had he not been prohibited by ethics.
It is unknown at this stage whether the magistrate’s comments could be a ground for his recusal, given his role in meting out justice to Debono.
The magistrate also dismissed Debono’s request for bail on grounds of the seriousness of the accusations, the impact of his release on public order, the risk of repeat offending and the high risk of him absconding to escape a potentially hefty prison sentence.