A youth, who was stopped by police when speeding through Paola main square in a BMW registered in the name of somebody else, was cleared of vehicle theft on Tuesday.

Alan Felice, now 28, from Santa Lucija, had prompted RIU officers to intervene on that August 2014 evening when he drove through De Paule Square at excessive speed.

The young driver was blocked and the BMW vehicle was searched.

That was when police came across a drug-filled cigarette, some crushed leaves inside a plastic container together with a crusher, all of which roused suspicion of cannabis possession.

The youth was arrested and was subsequently charged with possession of cannabis grass, aggravated theft of the vehicle as well as recidivism.

He pleaded not guilty, insisting that the drug found in his possession was for his own personal use.

He had started making use of the drug a month prior to the incident and that evening when blocked by police, he had just bought the cannabis from Marsa.

As for the BMW, Felice first told police that he had taken the car key from a bunch of keys his uncle had at his panel beater’s garage, slipping out for a while to buy something to eat.

Although he admitted that at the time he was driving without a licence, the accused denied going at excessive speed.

Later, when testifying in court, the accused said that the BMW was actually his but at the time of the incident, its transfer from the previous owner had not yet been completed.

A Transport Malta official confirmed that in March 2014, that vehicle had been registered in the name of another person, but was transferred to the accused in March 2015.

The BMW was subsequently transferred to a third party.

The accused’s uncle, a panel beater with a passion for restoring cars, also testified that his nephew had brought along the BMW for some needed repairs.

When delivering judgment the court, presided over by magistrate Doreen Clarke, observed that the drug found in the accused’s possession amounted to 3 grams of cannabis grass.

In light of last year’s legal amendments, possession of the drug under 7 grams was no longer deemed to be a criminal offence.

Since in criminal matters the law that was more favourable to the accused was to apply, this charge could not be pursued any further.

As for the theft of the vehicle, the court observed that the alleged victim had testified about his agreement with the accused for the transfer of the BMW.

He had even handed over the vehicle log book and all that was left to be done was the transfer which was eventually completed, said the previous owner, adding that he had no claims against the accused.

The evidence showed that on the day of the incident the accused had been given possession and control of the vehicle by its registered owner and therefore the charge of aggravated theft was not proved.

Nor could the Court pronounce itself upon the charge of recidivism since the Attorney General had failed to state the relative articles of law in its list of provisions in terms of which the court was to deliver judgment.

The court thus pronounced an acquittal.

Lawyer Roberto Montalto was defence counsel.

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