Five girls and a boy ganged up against a 16-year-old boy, robbing him of cash and grievously injuring him with a penknife in a Floriana public garden last weekend, a court heard on Tuesday.
The group, aged between 14 and 20, were identified as the alleged aggressors behind the mugging that took place on Saturday evening at around 7pm at a public garden just outside the City Gate.
Police from the Valletta station found the victim lying on the ground, with visible injuries to his face and hands.
He was rushed to Mater Dei Hospital where doctors confirmed he had sustained cut ligaments in his hands. His injuries were classified as grievous.
The victim later spoke to police, saying he had been attacked by a group of six. He also managed to identify one of the aggressors as a 14-year-old Maltese boy from Żurrieq.
An arrest warrant was issued against the first suspect.
Working on CCTV footage together with information gathered through hours of intensive police work, investigators managed to identify the other five suspects who were tracked down and arrested on Monday.
Two of them were arrested at the police depot. The others were arrested at their homes.
Sources said the alleged victim was apparently an ex-boyfriend of a friend of the co-accused and that there had been some verbal spat before the situation escalated to physical violence.
On Tuesday, all six were arraigned jointly. They were charged with grievously injuring the victim and wilfully breaching the public peace.
Three of the girls were charged with aggravated theft, while the 20-year-old was separately charged with unlawful possession of the penknife as well as relapsing.
The 17-year-old was also separately charged with wilful damage to the victim’s property.
The 14-year-old boy, alongside his five female partners in crime, aged 17 from Paola, two sisters aged 14 and 15 from Gżira, a 15-year-old from Valletta and 20-year-old Aicha Mariah from Paola, all pleaded not guilty.
The court issued a ban on the minors' names.
Presiding magistrate Joseph Mifsud questioned the charges in respect of the 14-year-olds, pointing out that the law laid down the requisite of "malicious intent".
Prosecuting inspector Stephen Gulia explained that the evidence gathered showed the element of malicious intent was indeed present.
In this case, the alleged victim was not simply attacked but was also robbed of his bag, containing some €90 in cash.
Moreover, a penknife had been used in the aggression.
As for the 14-year-old boy, while confirming that he had cooperated with police, the prosecutor added that he had deleted material from his phone, thus covering up the traces of the crime.
And the 14-year-old girl had allegedly stolen the victim’s possessions.
Four of the accused were students, though one of the girls said she did not intend to sit for exams.
“Why not?” asked the magistrate, pointing out that studying was the key to a better job and better pay.
“You’re still in time,” urged the magistrate.
The girl shrugged her shoulders.
The 17-year-old girl was an employee at a Mosta call centre, while the eldest of the group said she was studying to become a tattoo artist.
A request for bail was objected to by the prosecution because the victim was still to testify and was still in hospital.
However, the court upheld the request for bail, stating that although the young offenders deserved a warning, they ought not to be remanded in custody but rather allowed to go back to their studies.
Bail was granted against a personal guarantee of €2,000 each, under a curfew between 10pm and 6am, signing the bail book once a week and under strict orders not to approach the victim in any manner.
The court also issued a protection order in respect of the victim.
AG lawyer Kenneth Camilleri together with inspectors Stephen Gulia, Shaun Pawney and Daryl Borg prosecuted. Lawyers Franco Debono, Francesca Zarb, Ishmael Psaila, Dustin Camilleri and Alexia Attard variously assisted the accused.