A man arrested five years ago in connection with the theft of €50 worth of fuel spent an entire year behind bars in preventative custody concerning that crime, a court heard on Monday. 

Angelus Vella, now 69, was granted bail again by a court on Monday. 

Vella was arrested and arraigned in November 2017 for allegedly acting as an accomplice in stealing fuel from a service station and defrauding the owner.

In the ensuing period, he was convicted over separate drug-related charges, forfeiting bail granted in other separate proceedings. 

Having served punishment related to that drug case, Vella remained under preventive custody pending proceedings over the alleged fuel theft.

A court heard that Vella has a long criminal record, featuring offences dating back 30 years.

On Monday, his lawyers Jose’ Herrera and Noel Bianco, made a fresh request for bail.

“I remember him as a smart gentleman... He completely lost his bearings after the death of his son. He became a junkie and a petty criminal,” explained Herrera.

The accused had evidently improved during his time at the Corradino Correctional Facility and nowadays needed help outside of jail, the lawyer argued. 

He had spent more time in preventive custody than the possible term he could face for the petty “€50 theft”, added Herrera.

The defence was also considering the option of filing an application to request the court to convert itself into a Drugs Court and to deal with the case accordingly. The accused’s family willing to offer him their support, he added.

After hearing those submissions and after Inspector Roderick Agius declared that the prosecution had wrapped up all evidence, the court, presided over by magistrate Astrid May Grima, upheld the request.

The court placed the man under a Probation and Treatment Order pending final judgment, to receive psychological help and assistance to beat his drug problem.

He was ordered to sign the bail book three times weekly, abide by a curfew between 8pm and 7am, pay a deposit of €2,500 and bind himself under a personal guarantee of €10,000.

He was also barred from going to Qormi where the alleged theft took place. 

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