Pubdate: Thu, 04 Nov 2004
Source: Times Of Malta (Malta)
Copyright: 2004 Allied Newspapers Limited
Author: Claudia Calleja
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Youth)


A 17-year-old boy who confessed to trafficking in heroin and expressed a 
will to attend a rehabilitation programme was yesterday fined Lm25 as a 
magistrate, regretfully, explained that although probation would have been 
ideal the law did not allow it.

After hearing a probation officer recommend that the teenager (whose name 
is not being published as he is a minor) be placed on probation, Magistrate 
Consuelo Scerri Herrera explained that the Dangerous Drug Ordinance did not 
allow probation on trafficking charges.

"It is with great regret that this court is forbidden from placing the 
accused on probation since, in the court's opinion, it would have been the 
ideal situation since that way the accused would have been under 
observation for three years...

"Perhaps the time has come to amend the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, Chapter 
101, so that in exceptional cases that involve minors such law, that is the 
Probation Act, would be applicable," the magistrate said.

The Balzan youth pleaded guilty to the possession of cannabis resin and 
heroin and trafficking in heroin within 100 metres of a school or youth 
centre on and before February 10. Magistrate Scerri Herrera heard how the 
teenager had a drug addiction problem and was willing to attend a 
residential drug rehabilitation programme if he was accepted. For this 
reason, before handing down judgement the magistrate ordered a 
pre-sentencing report.

The report, compiled by probation officer Miriam Sevasta, reflected the 
teenager's genuine nature and immaturity who said he took drugs because he 
was very shy and wanted to be more outgoing with his friends.

The magistrate also heard the probation officer recommend the minimum jail 
term applicable and that the teenager be placed on probation so that he 
would be given all the help he needed.

The magistrate noted that the boy had filed a guilty plea, had a clean 
criminal record and was only 16 at the time of the commission of the crime. 
She also noted that drug trafficking was a very serious offence and one 
should not sell drugs to maintain the habit but seek assistance to overcome it.

However, the teenager deserved a chance to change his ways, the court added.

On looking into the punishments prescribed my law the magistrate noted that 
the teenager faced a jail term of up to 18 months in light of the offences 
he admitted to. When all factors were taken into account and the punishment 
was reduced by three grades, a fine, ranging from Lm3 to Lm25, was applicable.

However, the magistrate noted the Dangerous Drug Ordinance stated that 
probation was not applicable for such crimes and so she fined him Lm25.

She ordered that a copy of the judgment be sent to the House of 

Police Inspector Josric Mifsud prosecuted.
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