Court awards boat house owner €5,000 as moral damages

Criminal proceedings commenced in 1982

An architect who spent 32 years facing criminal proceedings following charges of having built a boat house without the necessary permits, was granted €5,000 by way of moral damages after suing local authorities.

Lawrence Montebello instituted civil proceedings in January 2015 against the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General claiming a violation of his right to a fair trial within a reasonable time.

Criminal proceedings against the applicant had started in January 1982 and, the court observed, had dragged on until the case was finally withdrawn in June 2012 since the prosecution had failed to provide any proof of the alleged irregularities.

Just when Mr Montebello thought that the whole ordeal was over, he was once more, in October 2014, taken to court on identical charges.

The court, presided by Mr Justice Silvio Meli, observed that throughout the entire court saga "practically nothing" was ever done. The prosecution did not bring forward any evidence.

The court concluded that "the excessive delay was effectively attributable to the State."

The court declared that there was no doubt that the right of the applicant to a fair trial within a reasonable time had been violated.

Consequently, the court upheld the claims of the applicant and ordered the State to pay him €5,000 by way of moral damages. The State was also ordered to pay court expenses incurred in the suit.