A man has landed 480 hours of community work after a minor traffic collision had escalated into violence which was deemed by the court to have been “totally disproportionate”.

Philip Cauchi, 45, from Żebbuġ, was a passenger in his girlfriend’s Fiat Punto one evening in March 2006 when another car ran into them at the Pender Place car park in St Julian’s but failed to stop.

Mr Cauchi got out of the car and tried to give chase, soon giving up. However, in the meantime, his girlfriend was hit by a third vehicle and suffered leg injuries.

The driver of this car, a 19-year-old university student, had immediately stopped his car but Mr Cauchi flung open his door, raining blows upon the young man at the wheel. The young man ended up suffering grievous injuries to his face and other parts of his body.

Mr Cauchi was initially prosecuted for attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, damage to the victim’s property and breach of public peace.

In the course of the proceedings, two conflicting versions emerged, with the accused and his girlfriend claiming that the student had been hit by another vehicle as he tried to run away from the onslaught.

The victim, on the other hand, insisted that his injuries had been inflicted by the accused who lay into him like “a ferocious animal”.

Court had to rely on scientific reports

In the absence of other witnesses and clear CCTV footage from the site of the incident, the court had to rely on scientific reports drawn up by court experts.

The court, presided over by magistrate Marse Ann Farrugia, concluded that the version given by the accused and his girlfriend lacked truth and was contradicted by the experts’ technical evidence.

The excuse of provocation and instantaneous passion raised by the defence was rejected by the court, observing that Mr Cauchi had assaulted the student without even first stopping to check his girlfriend’s injuries.

When testifying, the accused had indeed admitted how at the time “he had lost control,” later expressing his regret and offering to cover any expenses involved.

When determining punishment, the court took note of the fact that the accused had a clean criminal record and a stable life, making an effective jail term too harsh a punishment.

In light of all circumstances, including the length of the proceedings, the court declared the man guilty of involuntary bodily harm and ordered him to 480 hours of community service, the maximum envisaged by law even in view of the disfigurement suffered by the victim.

Moreover , the court stressed that in a civil society it was not acceptable for anyone who stopped after an accident to end up being beaten, disfigured and left to suffer psychological trauma.

Lawyer Roberto Montalto was defence counsel.