Prime Minister Robert Abela admitted that for the first time, he did not feel it safe to allow his daughter to walk alone in Valletta following what appeared to be an unprovoked assault on teenagers by a group of adolescents last Sunday.
The teenager ended up in hospital with a broken leg after he and his friends were thrown to the ground and repeatedly kicked in the head and ribs by a group of older adolescents in Valletta.
Speaking to Times of Malta, one of the boys’ fathers said his 14-year-old son was walking down Merchants Street “without a care in the world” after enjoying a meal with his scout group when he was assaulted.
Abela told reporters that he was very angry about the latest unprovoked assault in Valletta. Incidents such as this had occurred repeatedly over the past years and the courts had a responsibility to revise sentencing policy to ensure that harsh punishments deterred rogue individuals, he said.
"Up until recently, I felt it was safe to let my 10-year-old daughter roam around Valletta, but yesterday, for the first time, I did not feel too comfortable about it," he told Times of Malta.
"I want the courts to revise their sentencing policy to avoid demoralising the police and to help our society regain that sense of security that our country is known for."
Lenient sentences 'unacceptable'
Abela also referred to the murder of interior designer Pelin Kaya while walking down Testaferrata Street in Gzira at 1am on Wednesday after celebrating her 30th birthday.
He said it was unacceptable for the courts to hand out lenient sentences, and suggested they should hand out harsher punishments when necessary.
He also said sentencing policies involving repeat offenders should be revised but said he did not want to comment further not to prejudice the case in court.
Kaya was killed when she was hit by a car which then crashed into a KFC restaurant. The driver then got out and reportedly assaulted the woman and a bystander. He resisted arrest but was eventually apprehended and later taken to court and accused of murder.
"Anyone who is not capable of living decently in society, anyone who does not respect the basic values of this country, and anyone who selfishly hinders public safety should be sent a very clear message by the courts," the prime minister said.
He called for a heavier police presence in Valletta but said every citizen must be responsible for maintaining public order. Parents had a responsibility to raise their children as peaceful citizens.
"Even if we double the number of police in Valletta, we will never have officers in every place at every time," he said.
"Citizens must be responsible. And I also appeal to parents to be responsible when raising their children. I am responsible to make sure that my daughter is raised with the values of respect towards all people."
Asked about the government's own responsibilities, Abela said it had given the courts and the police all the resources they asked for, including an increase in the number of magistrates and judges, more courtrooms and more equipment, and it was now up to them to make the best use of what they have been provided with.
18-year-wait for justice is too long
He also weighed in on the acquittal of two men who were accused of murdering Sion Grech 18 years ago. He said that while he respected the jury's decision, irrespective of his views on the verdict, it was 'unacceptable' for justice to take 18 years.
"We must be honest with ourselves - this is an endemic problem that has been with us for decades and every effort to tackle it did not work," he said.
"We cannot have the victim's family waiting for justice that long."
He went on to suggest that it was time for courts to hold hearings after 1pm, to keep up with the demand.
"I don't want to be unfair with many magistrates and judges who work tirelessly, but we do have a situation where most courtrooms are empty by 1pm," he said.
"Is it acceptable to have an empty court after 1pm? I know there is a lot of paperwork to be done in the afternoons, especially the drafting of sentences, but the judges and magistrates have staff to assist them with those," he added.
Valletta assaults - Children's commissioner calls for surveillance
The Office of the Commissioner for Children on Monday also condemned the assault on teenagers in Valletta.
It said appropriate spaces should be made accessible so as to enable young people to socialise and develop in a healthy manner.
"There should also be more surveillance in the streets as well as in recreational areas where people get together including adults, young people and children under the age of 18 so as to ensure their safety," the Office said.