Archive: Acquittal Due to Poor CCTV

30 September 2011
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Category: News
30 September 2011, Comments: 0

CCTV footage supposedly of a man who stood charged with stealing a laptop and other items from a car led to his acquittal because the filming was unrecognisable, with the Court ruling that by no stretch of the imagination could it conclude that it was the same man.
Pierre Cassar, 36, from Marsaxlokk stood charged with stealing an Acer laptop and other items from an Alfa Spider belonging to Godwin Vella, damaging the car and relapsing on 7 June, 2010 in the afternoon.

At the time of the alleged crime the car was parked in the driveway, and investigative officials said that they recognised the accused from CCTV footage of the site.

The Court pointed out that there are guidelines when it comes to identifying someone in such cases, namely the judge should warn the jury of the special need for caution, and circumstances must be closely examined as mistakes in recognition are sometimes made.

Upon seeing the footage the Court said it was not clear, as part of the view of the car was impeded, however a person was seen entering the driveway and approaching the car, before walking away carrying some things.

The person is wearing a cap, a red top and trousers, and after having seen the accused in various sittings, it was not certain from the footage who the man was. Nevertheless police officers Malcolm Pace and George Żammit said they recognised him.

They said they have known the accused for more than 10 years, as he has often had run-ins with the police because of his drug history, and said “his walk is that of Pierre”. PC Żammit also said he recognised the face.

The Court said there was no way it could rely on such weak evidence, and said the whole investigation was in fact rather weak. It pointed out that people saying they had seen him roaming the area looking suspicious might have influenced the police, that the police did not mention the cap and that saying they recognised the accused was not enough to prove him guilty, beyond reasonable doubt.

It was also pointed out that there were various discrepancies in details of the date and place of the incident, as indicated in the charges. Although he is charged with committing the crime on Monday, 7 June, 2010, Mr Vella said he reported the theft that day, but it was committed the day before.

Furthermore the date on the CCTV footage is 7 June, 2010. The same discrepancies exist in the location of the crime, as the charge sheet and the report speak of two different roads. At no point did the prosecution request a correction of the facts.

Consequently the Court ruled that it had no option but to acquit Mr Cassar, due to lack of evidence. Lawyer Joe Mifsud appeared for the accused and police inspector Priscilla Caruana prosecuted. The Court was presided by Magistrate Edwina Grima.

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