A fight over unpaid utility bills landed a landlady’s son with grievous back injuries and the defaulting tenant with a suspended sentence, after his behaviour was described as “unacceptable” by the court.
Joseph Borg, a 28-year old from Siġġiewi, was facing multiple charges relating to the violent row regarding the Żebbuġ apartment, which he used to lease from the victim’s family.
Mr Borg's lease had been terminated by his landlady after he failed to make rent and pay utility bills for the flat on Luret Cutajar street on time.
On the morning of August 5, 2011, Mr Borg began emptying the rented flat, leaving behind his cat and some other belongings. Yet when he returned later in the evening, he immediately realised that the lock to the flat door had been changed.
Earlier in the afternoon, his landlady had allegedly warned him that he would only be allowed to take the rest of his things once he had settled his dues.
When the landlady’s son turned up outside the apartment around 10.00pm, a violent row broke out between the man and the tenant, who at the time was accompanied by some three friends.
As the fight escalated, the accused allegedly hit the other man with a spirit level landing him a back injury, certified in hospital as being some five centimetres long and penetrating his back muscles.
In the course of criminal proceedings, the accused pleaded not guilty to attempted homicide, grievous bodily harm, breaching the peace, damage to third party property and possession of prohibited ammunition, namely pepper spray.
The first charge related to the attempted homicide was subsequently withdrawn.
The court, presided over by magistrate Josette Demicoli, observed that the victim’s mother had taken the law into her own hands when she decided to change the lock to the apartment, knowing fully well that some of the accused’s possessions were still inside.
Moreover, the accused himself had suffered a cut above his eyebrows, CCTV footage retrieved from the scene of the crime showing that the victim had actually dealt the first blow when the row broke out, the court observed.
Since no expert had been appointed to determine the cause and nature of the injuries suffered by the victim and on the basis of the evidence produced, the court could not determine who had actually caused the injury, concluding that the prosecution had failed to prove this accusation beyond reasonable doubt.
In the light of all evidence produced, the court only found the accused guilty of having caused a slight injury, condemning him to a three-month jail term suspended for two years, whilst placing him under a two-year Restraining Order, pointing out that his behaviour “was unacceptable in our society.”
Inspectors Anthony Cachia and Roderick Agius prosecuted.
Lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Yanika Vidal were defence counsel.