Proceedings over drug-related charges against a now 61-year-old man have been declared time-barred by a Magistrates’ Court, 34 years after they started.
Raymond Walsh had been 26 when charges were first instituted against him in April 1984 over the alleged possession and cultivation of cannabis after a search at the man’s Sliema home.
During the search, officers had discovered a small potted cannabis plant, cannabis seeds, a small set of weighing scales and other drug paraphernalia.
Scientific experts had reported that some 1,600 cannabis seeds, weighing 19.8 grams, had been handed over to them for testing.
Following a sitting on June 20, 1984, the accused never appeared in court, prompting an arrest warrant in August that same year. But the warrant could not be enforced since the accused had absconded from the island.
Thirty-four years later, the man was traced and brought back to Malta to face justice in terms of an extradition request originally issued in December 1984.
When proceedings continued before the court, presided over by magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo, it was observed that as the law had stood prior to 2002, prescription would continue to run in respect of pending cases. The law has since been changed in this respect.
However, as the law stood in 1984, the prescriptive period of two years was interrupted when the arrest warrant was issued, only to run afresh.
In spite of a request for Mr Walsh’s extradition in February 1985, the court stated that it had received no evidence that such proceedings had ever kicked off or followed up, nor that there had been another arrest warrant in the accused’s regard.
Consequently, declaring the criminal proceedings to have been time-barred since February 1987, the court threw out the case.
Lawyer Stefano Filletti was defence counsel.
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