Patrick Spiteri is to be transferred to an empty prison ward to better safeguard his ailing health, despite the disgraced lawyer arguing that the transfer will leave him in solitary confinement.
The lawyer, who was extradited from the UK in May to face charges of misappropriation, fraud and falsification of documents, will be moved after a magistrate's court heard how poor conditions in Corradino Correctional Facility's division 4 had led to Dr Spiteri's health progressively worsening over the past three months.
Dr Spiteri was diagnosed in the UK as suffering from Behcet’s syndrome, a degenerative disease that causes neurological damage and a gradual loss of coordination, ulcers and skin lesions. His bad health was exacerbated by overcrowding in the prison and other inmates smoking around him, the court heard.
A court-appointed medical expert who visited the accused in prison agreed that “other people's smoking does not help the accused’s condition”.
Dr Spiteri is to be moved to division 15, a ward kept for possible cases of contagious disease and which is currently empty.
The division is 36 feet by 33 feet large with a yard almost the same size, with no cigarette smoking and plenty of natural light, the expert told the court.
But the former lawyer was not happy with the arrangement, telling the court "it’s grimy, it’s dirty."
"Why isolate me? Am I a terrorist? Am I already guilty? I am trying to defend myself,” the former lawyer complained.
Cigarettes, swearing and poor food
Dr Spiteri, who was seeking bail, argued that cigarettes were found everywhere in prison. He said inmates and prison officials who were cursing were adding to his stress and added that a daily diet of chicken and fish was also damaging his health.
Defence lawyer Stefano Filletti pointed out that the proposed arrangement effectively meant that his client would be kept in isolation. Even the dining area was a smoking area, the lawyer said, prompting magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera to remark that “If he doesn’t smoke, he eats alone. You can’t expect a whole prison to be non-smoking for Dr Patrick Spiteri.”
Correctional Manager Saviour Lia next testified that prison authorities had never received instructions to keep Dr Spiteri away from smokers. “We have received no medical order or medical advice to do so,” replied the witness when questioned by the defence lawyer.
A social worker following Dr Spiteri behind bars had allegedly sent three emails on the issue of extended visits, medical matters and other issues, but Mr Lia insisted that instructions to keep the inmate in a smoke-free environment had not been issued.
This is solitary confinement - defence
The defence pointed out that being transferred to division 15 effectively meant that his client would be being kept in solitary confinement. “Isolation is, in and of itself, a punitive measure... at a stage when the accused is presumed innocent,” Dr Filletti argued as Dr Spiteri and his English partner visibly held back their tears.
The defence repeated its request for bail, insisting that a balance could be struck between security issues on one hand and medical problems and difficulty in preparing his defence in prison on the other hand.
Police Inspector Anne Marie Xuereb countered that if the defence was going to bind itself to the court expert’s report, “it should do so in its entirety...testifying today, the expert recommended that the accused be kept away from people.”
The court, in view of the evidence, provisionally ordered that the accused be transferred to division 15, “not as a punishment and not so as to be held in isolation, but so as to put him in a better position to receive treatment for his medical condition.”
“Under no circumstances is the accused to be prejudiced in any benefit that other prisoners enjoy ...This is being said because the health of a human being is of paramount importance.”
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