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Man in 'Mellieha mentality' controversy lands in jail

A Mellieha man was sent to jail by an appeals court today after he was last year controversially conditionally discharged when he ran over an Australian for making gestures implying he was gay. At the time, the Magistrates' Court had said that he had taken into account the “mentality” of Mellieħa residents who considered such a jibe to be “unacceptable”.

Alan Gauci, 37, had been convicted of causing serious and permanent injury to Jeremy Lalic on March 21, 2004.

He had admitted to police that he ran over the victim with his Sunbeam car because Mr Lalic had insinuated behind his back that he was homosexual. Mr Lalic was being loud and abusive to customers in Zep’s Bar and was in fact evicted by the management.

Mr Gauci told police he was so offended by what the victim had done that he thought to himself the man “deserved to be run over”.

Driving home, he happened to spot Mr Lalic and ran him down. The victim suffered a severed nerve in his left elbow.

During pleas on punishment, Police Inspector M Mallia said “the incident would not have happened were it not for what (Mr Gauci) believed was provocation”.

Magistrate Carol Peralta agreed said he “really believed” the officer, “especially when one considered not only the incident per se but also the locality and the mentality of society in that village”.

“The accused lives in Mellieħa and that’s why, in his mind, he felt he had a reputation to defend in Mellieħa.

“So, although, in itself, there was nothing wrong in what was said, given that the insinuation that the accused could be gay was made in Mellieħa, in front of other residents, it is possible that for the accused and other Mellieħa citizens, this was unacceptable,” the magistrate noted.

The magistrate conditionally discharged Mr Gauci for three years after considering that the law allowed for a more lenient punishment in the case of a provoked attack.

An appeal was filed by the Attorney General, who contested the interpretation of provocation given by the lower court.

Mr Justice Michael Mallia said Mr Gauci could never use provocation as a defence for such an action which had left another man seriously injured. What had happened was not a reason for any rational person to completely lose his temper. There was nothing instantaneous in what Mr Gauci had done, and he ran over the Australian 40 minutes after the initial argument.

He therefore sentenced Mr Gauci to 12 months in jail.

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