A disbarred lawyer currently facing charges of misappropriation and fraud running into some €7.4 million this morning reiterated his request for bail, pointing out that his court-ordered transfer to Division 15 could possibly land him in contact with a case of suspected scabies.

This latest twist in the ongoing court saga of lawyer Patrick Spiteri came to light this morning during a sitting presided over by duty magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit who replaced Magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona who has since retired.

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The request for bail has been made before three different magistrates who are presiding over different proceedings related to the charges which had led to the extradition of Dr Spiteri from the UK upon a request by the Maltese authorities.

Acting on the strength of some seven European Arrest Warrants, British police had arrested the former lawyer who was, last May, eventually sent back to Malta after having been medically certified as fit to fly and to stand trial.

Reiterating the arguments made only last week, during a separate sitting before Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera, defence lawyer Stefano Filletti stressed the urgency of the bail issue.

A court-appointed medical expert, Dr Franco Camilleri Vassallo, had visited Dr Spiteri in prison and had reported that the conditions at the Corradino Correctional Facility, particularly the all-pervasive cigarette smoke, were negatively affecting the inmate's medical condition.

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Having been diagnosed in the UK as suffering from Behcet’s syndrome, a degenerative disease that causes neurological damage, resulting in loss of coordination and stiffening of the limbs, genital, throat and mouth ulcers and skin lesions, Dr Spiteri ought not be held in prison, the doctor had recommended.

Moreover, it was practically impossible for the former lawyer to gain access to some 400 personal files and records stored partly in court and partly in his Gwardamangia property, the defence lawyer pointed out.

This effectively meant that his client was being denied the possibility of preparing a valid defence.

“A request for a copy of all the files was refused due to the sheer number of documents and besides, some of the material is so sensitive that it should not be copied,” Dr Filletti continued.

Another Magistrates’ Court, faced with these arguments, had last week ordered the temporary transfer of Dr Spiteri to prison Division 15, an open dormitory normally reserved for any cases of contagious disease.

Since then, Dr Spiteri has opposed the transfer and even more so after learning that an inmate presenting symptoms of suspected scabies had been admitted to Division 15 before being hospitalized yesterday, the court was told.

The court was told that this same division, partially at basement level, had even received harsh criticism in a 2013 report by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe. In September 2015, the Committee had been “happy to report that the division had permanently closed.” The same prison wing was however reopened later on, Dr Filletti pointed out.

“The reality is that today Patrick Spiteri is suffering from unnecessary pain because he is being held in prison, refusing to go to division 15 which would mean physical and psychological isolation”, while also facing the added possibility of disciplinary action for opposing the transfer which was not intended as a punitive measure, his lawyer continued.

Stressing upon the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused, Dr Filletti called for a balance between the health concerns of his client, his right to defend himself “in a complex criminal case,” his right to enjoy his family and his obligations to attend all court sittings.

Prosecuting Inspector Yvonne Farrugia, made no further submissions, resting instead on the Attorney General's reply to previous bail requests. 

The case continues.

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