A boy whose name cannot be published by court order has been acquitted of causing the involuntary homicide of his 14-year old friend in a freak accident
at ix-Xatt l-Aħmar in the limits of Għajnsielem last summer.
The accused had jumped into the sea and landed on top of his friend James Xuereb, from Għajnsielem, also 14.
Xuereb, who had suffered severe back injuries, had died in hospital.
In his decision, Magistrate Joe Mifsud cited article 37 of the criminal code, which says that a minor is exempt from criminal responsibility for every act committed without bad intentions.
The Gozo Juvenile Court said it did not doubt that the accused had not acted “with the consciousness of the wrongful and unlawful character of his deed”.
It also noted that the victim’s version of events had not been presented during proceedings as the police had not questioned him during the 66-days he spend in recovery at hospital before passing away.
The court recommended that warning signs should be installed at the site of the incident so that bathers would exert prudence to avoid a similar incidents.
The court also pointed out that the police inspector was only alerted about the incident two weeks after it happened after he was approached by the victim’s lawyer.
The court remarked that it could not understand why no follow-up had been carried out by the police on a case which had stirred a public debate in Malta and Gozo.
“Why is it that the officer who took the report had not informed his superiors on this case?” the magistrate asked.
The Magistrate also flagged that on the day of the incident the duty Magistrate had not been contacted, and subsequently declined to launch an inquiry as he felt too much time had elapsed.
Consequently, no court experts were appointed to determine any possible shortcomings which could have been linked to the cause of the minor’s fatal death.
It was only when the victim died, 66 days later, that a magisterial inquiry was launched.
Police inspector Bernard Charles Spiteri prosecuted.