The Maltese courts, whilst having the respect of most of the Maltese population, still do the darnedest things every now and then.
And I’m not even referring to the fact that Daniel Holmes is still imprisoned, or that they really tried their best to keep a man with no kidneys inside a dilapidated cell during summer without a fan.
This week, the courts sent a Bulgarian man to prison for eight months for stealing a razor blade worth €7. He had a previous suspended sentence of six months, and, having committed crime during the suspended period, another two months were tacked on to send him away.
And today, a 67-year-old Australian man who kissed a waiter on the neck without consent was ordered to pay a deposit of €1,500, a personal guarantee of €2,500, and must sign at the local police station every day. He is also ordered not to leave the country until the court case is finished.
The thing is, two days earlier, a man who had a violent domestic dispute with his female partner where he shot two bullets at her through a window, was fined just €700. And just today, two bouncers that viciously disfigured a Maltese youth were given mere suspended sentences.
In another case today, a man who got into a physical fight with a witness who was set to testify against him, right outside the court’s doors, was acquitted of all charges due to the court’s being unable to confirm how the witness was injured.
The lenient sentences for what could be seen as two cases of attempted murder are especially telling of where the court comes down heavy, and where it does not
In the case of the domestic dispute, the lenient sentence was given after the prosecutor withdrew six of the eight charges against him at the partner’s request – even though Maltese law allows the police force to pursure domestic violence charges even after the alleged victim changes his/her mind.
However, they did not pursue the charges, and just found him guilty of keeping an unlicensed firearm and carrying it during an offence against a person.
He’s now as free as a bird, even though he literally shot bullets during an argument… with his partner, no less.
Malta’s general reaction to the courts this week
Local NGOs have slammed the court’s particular way of treating violent vs non-violent court cases
It’s a running joke in Malta that it’s practically safer to beat someone up, rape someone, or attempt to murder them, rather than any other crime.
The Maltese courts’ reactions to non-violent accusations – at least in this week’s cases – point towards a strange tendency to forgive violence, but to harshly punish non-violent crimes.
A court system that lets you get away with violent threats that you shouldn’t be able to get away with is sending a very wrong message to people. It would be funny – if you are into dark humour, and if it wasn’t negatively affecting Maltese society.
On the same note, a court that is not lenient when it should be is also not abiding by the spirit of the law, and risks losing the public’s faith in it as an institution. Forgiveness in the face of facts is a central part of justice.
It is essential that Maltese law makes it very clear about what society thinks of violent crimes, and treats them in a stronger manner than non-violent crimes. And it is essential that the courts abide by these laws, and uphold the values that this country hold so dear.
Anything else is incentivising violence – and with so many violent acts in the last year, is that something we really want to be doing as a nation, least of all from our courts of justice?
What do you think of these judgements?
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