A man facing prosecution for attempted murder was on Wednesday escorted to court for breaching bail conditions, however, proceedings ground to a standstill pending a decision by the constitutional courts.

Said Ramdan Alhaj, a 31-year old Libyan national living in Sliema, was originally arraigned last year over a violent argument with a Maltese man he had met at Marsaxlokk.

Police came across the victim, covered in blood, lying on the ground near tas-Silg Chapel, late one evening last April. His face was slashed by the alleged aggressor who had run off with the man's bag.

While proceedings over that alleged attempted murder continued, Alhaj landed back in court after police knocked at the door of his residence on Monday evening and no one answered their call. 

He was subsequently arrested and charged with allegedly being outside his home beyond the court-imposed curfew and thus in breach of bail. 

He pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution requested the revocation of bail as well as forfeiture of the €10,200 bail bond.

But defence lawyers Franco Debono and Francesca Zarb objected to that request, promptly pointing out that another court, presiding over an unrelated case of alleged breach of bail, had upheld their request for a constitutional reference challenging the current mandatory forfeiture of the bail bond and the accused’s re-arrest.

That other case concerned a man and a woman who had been arrested together with four other Spanish nationals after being caught drinking at a Spinola bar one evening in May last year, at a time when bars were under COVID-19 lockdown. 

When police turned up to break up the party, a scuffle broke out, landing all six under arrest. 

Yet when, four months later, two of the group ended up in fresh trouble for allegedly being found outside in breach of curfew, their lawyers, Debono and Amadeus Cachia, had requested a reference to the First Hall, Civil Court to challenge the constitutional validity of the “blanket provision” imposing forfeiture of bail money indiscriminately. 

While the courts faced such arguments a bill was tabled in Parliament to amend the current law in such a manner as to allow a wider margin of judicial discretion when it comes to the forfeiture of bail money.

Pending a decision by the constitutional courts or the enactment of the new law by Parliament, all cases concerning alleged breaches of bail are likely to face a similar impasse, argued the lawyers. 

In light of such considerations, magistrate Neville Camilleri, presiding over today’s arraignment, upheld the defence’s request to suspend the hearing of the case pending a pronouncement on the constitutional reference. 

Meanwhile, a request for bail was upheld against a deposit of €500, a personal guarantee of €10,000, daily signing of the bail book and a curfew between 6:30pm and 7am.

Inspector Roderick Attard prosecuted. 

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