A man who spent an extra 274 days in jail awaiting an appeal over his conviction for stabbing his former partner Yana Mintoff Bland and her son has won €10,000 in compensation after the court found his human rights had been breached.

The court found that Gheorghe Popa had spent more time in jail due to court delays when his appeal was stuck in court for more than five years.

The 45-year-old Romanian had been jailed for six years for injuring Mintoff Bland and her son in October 2016.

Mintoff Bland, the daughter of late Prime Minister Dom Mintoff, is a former Labour Party electoral candidate.

The court heard how Mintoff Bland and Popa had argued when he resisted her attempts to break off their relationship.  After attacking her and her son, Popa had also injured himself.

In jailing him for six years, the first court had ruled that Popa was a danger not only to Mintoff Bland and her son, but to society at large.

“This sort of violence will not be tolerated,” the magistrate had said in his judgment.

“In our society we are witnessing relationships often built on sand or through social networking and when this falls apart there may be individuals who refuse to accept that such relationships have an expiry date,” he continued.

Popa appealed the judgment in 2018 but the case was still pending before Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti in 2023, forcing the Chief Justice to reassign it to another judge, Neville Camilleri, who quickly heard the appeal and decided to confirm the conviction and six-year prison sentence.

Presiding over the First Hall of the Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction, Madam Justice Joanne Vella Cuschieri heard Popa complain about the exaggerated delay for his appeal to be heard and decided, which amounted to a violation of his human right to be tried within a reasonable time.

He also complained that since the bail bond had been pegged at €5,000, an amount that he could not afford, he had to spend more time under “illegal arrest”.

The court heard how Popa spent until 2021 in prison because he was never released from custody.

The judge noted how Popa’s case is not a complex one and questioned how the appeals court heard the appeal in a few sittings but still did not deliver judgment until the case was reassigned to another judge.

The judge observed that by the time the appeal was decided, Popa had already served his prison sentence. The court upheld Popa’s argument that his arrest was illegal. Instead of serving the 1,440 days he had to serve in prison, he ended up serving 1,714 days.

Madam Justice Vella Cuschieri observed that from an analysis of the evidence, Popa ended up spending around 274 extra days in jail as a result of the delay.

“The only reason why he was still kept in prison, apart from his impossibility to pay the deposit, was due to the unjustified delay of the part of the Court to give the decision at the appeal stage.

"The court considers that such detention beyond the [prison] sentence was in fact an arbitrary and unjustified one given that it was effectively in violation of the fundamental right,” the judge ruled.

“The court considers that this violation was very serious [because] no one can give back the claimant the 274 days of freedom lost from his life,” she said, as she awarded moral damages.

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