A judge has ordered the retrial of a company director who had been jailed, after being found responsible for a 2008 incident in which a teenage girl was left paralyzed after a lighting structure went down collapsed on it.
Maurice Attard of Sonlit Ltd had been sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for criminal negligence and grievous bodily harm, in 2016. Sonlit Ltd had been subcontracted to install a joist, from which the lighting equipment was suspended, in an open-air public disco at a parking lot in St Paul’s Bay.
About three hours after the start of the festival, the winds caused the collapse of the structure and heavy projectors, injuring eight people.
Vlada Kravchenko was only 17 when she suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of the collapse and is now forced to use a wheelchair. The Ukrainian teenager had just arrived at the party, when the scaffolding collapsed.
Attard had appealed against his conviction, arguing among other things that the criminal court had not asked the accused whether he wished to be tried in summary proceedings or before the criminal court – an important point of the procedure. The lack of formality occurred in 2010, and the case then passed through the hands of three different magistrates.
In his submissions to the Court of Appeal, the Attorney General confirmed that this question had not been put to the accused, but argued that this did not invalidate the proceedings because the defense did not. had not raised in the high court, which had continued to hear all the evidence in the case, including the testimony of the accused himself.
Judge Giovanni Grixti, president of the court of criminal appeal, noted that at the time of Attard’s conviction, the jurisdiction of the district court had increased, allowing it to hear cases punishable by a penalty of up to up to two years’ imprisonment.
The court had started gathering evidence in the man’s case as it initially did not have the consent of the attorney general to hear the case summarily. When the GA finally asked for the case to be tried summarily, the court was legally obliged to ask the defendant if there was an objection.
Attard said he was never asked that question. The prosecution argued that consent was implied, for he had not only left the proceedings continue, but had also testified on his behalf.
Judging the case, the judge stressed that the first court should ask the accused whether or not he consented to summary proceedings. This essential formality could not be deduced, said the judge, explaining that the absence of it was fatal to the case.
Attorneys Giannella De Marco and Stephen Tonna Lowell appeared as defense attorneys for Attard.