A woman who offered a friend €1,000 to falsely report a car bomb on the Gozo ferry so she could avoid a meeting with her probation officer has been handed a suspended jail term. 

Joelle Galea, 34, from Sliema, was sentenced to 16 months in jail suspended for 42 months after being found guilty of complicity in a bomb hoax which disrupted the Gozo Channel service for a few hours in May 2018. 

The court heard how Galea had called Ronald Mallia, 32, of Mosta and promised him €1,000 if he called 112 saying there was a bomb in a car that was on a Gozo Channel boat. The call was traced to St John’s Square and CCTV footage of the telephone box there showed Mallia making the call. 

Mallia was called in for questioning and immediately admitted to the crime, saying it was Galea who had promised him money to disrupt the service so she would not attend a meeting with her probation officer. 

Mallia had been charged and sentenced to a 10-month effective jail term. 

Galea denied the charges and told police Mallia had called because he knew that she was travelling to Malta to fix things with her husband, with whom she had argued. 

However, Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech said Mallia’s version was corroborated by other circumstantial evidence, including telephone logs shortly before the 112 call was made. 

She therefore found Galea guilty of complicity in the bomb hoax, which had paralysed ferry crossings for a few hours. She also found Galea guilty of instructing Mallia to make the threatening call.

She was cleared of heroin possession and of breaching the bail conditions of another case after the court noted that this had not been sufficiently proven. 

At the time, Galea had been facing separate proceedings over the theft of €60,000 from her parents’ bank accounts. However, despite admitting to the charges, the case was dropped after the woman’s parents had withdrawn their criminal complaint. 

Magistrate Frendo Dimech also placed the woman under a three-year supervision order so she could receive help to address her problems. The court noted that the crime had been committed at a time when the woman has serious drug problems so could not weigh the consequences of her actions. 

Notwithstanding this, the court said the crime the woman was involved in was very serious, especially since it targeted the only means to cross the channel between Malta and Gozo. The court asked whether the time was ripe to consider whether to amend the law to increase the punishment for similar crimes, especially when the target is a public place or a public facility, where the effect is worse. The magistrate therefore ordered that the Justice Minister be notified with the judgment. 

Police Inspectors George Cremona and Omar Zammit prosecuted. 

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