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Italian complains he was not granted legal assistance during police interrogation

An Italian man who is facing criminal proceedings for drug trafficking has been granted the right to refer to the superior courts after he pleaded that he was not granted the possibility of legal assistance during police interrogation.

Aldo Pistella, 38 from Agrigento, had denied possession of cannabis in circumstances denoting it was not for his personal use. He was arrested on November 17 after weeks of surveillance by the Drugs Squad. 

Although at the time of his arrest the law allowed a person to consult a lawyer before releasing a statement to the police, it was only a few days ago that the law was effectively changed to allow the presence of a lawyer even during police questioning. In fact, the right of a suspect to be assisted by a lawyer both before and during police interrogation was enshrined under Maltese law on November 28, 2016.

Defence counsel Arthur Azzopardi argued that the European Convention on Human Rights required that suspects were to be allowed to consult a lawyer both before making their statement as well as while it was being taken down. The lawyer made reference to various court decisions and EU Directives which support this argument.

In its decree, the court presided by magistrate Neville Camilleri, observed that although the accused's statement had been released in accordance with the law that was applicable at the time, the argument raised by the defence deserved to be considered by a superior court dealing with constitutional matters. 

Proceedings before the magistrates' court will resume once the superior court decides upon the preliminary plea.

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