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‘Gay’ jibe man who ran down tourist walks free

‘Accused had reputation to defend’

Magistrate Carol Peralta.

Magistrate Carol Peralta.

A magistrate yesterday conditionally discharged a man who ran over an Australian for making gestures implying he was gay, after taking into account the “mentality” of Mellieħa residents who considered such a jibe to be “unacceptable”.

Magistrate Carol Peralta yesterday found Alan Gauci, 36, from Mellieħa, guilty of causing serious and permanent injury to Jeremy Lalic on March 21, 2004.

Mr Gauci 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 Michael Mallia said “the incident would not have happened were it not for what (Mr Gauci) believed was provocation”.

Magistrate 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.

He said such reduction was justified when considering other mitigating circumstances like Mr Gauci’s previous good conduct, his cooperation with police and the length of time it took for the sentence to be handed down after having been put off for judgment in March last year.

On the other hand, the magistrate said he could not ignore the seriousness of the crime and, while it was in the court’s duty to punish the accused accordingly, Mr Gauci had to understand that the victim was living his life with a permanent injury.

The magistrate said the accused should thank God that the victim was still alive.

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