Owner of illegal bus park held partially responsible for blaze damages
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Owner of illegal bus park held partially responsible for blaze damages

Court says illegal use of land could not go unpunished

The scene of the blaze in 2009

The scene of the blaze in 2009

A private bus owner and the owner of land which was being illegally used as a bus park have been ordered to pay €9,236 in damages to the owner of an adjacent apartment which was damaged by a fierce fire in 2009.

The case was instituted by GasanMamo Insurance as the insurer of apartment owners Angelo and Mary Spiteri against the land owner Joseph Mifsud. His brother Emanuel Mifsud was subsequently brought into the case.

The court heard how the fire had badly damaged the facade of the apartment occupied by Mr and Mrs Spiteri, destroying apertures and an air conditioning unit and badly damaging electrical and water installations. 

Joseph Mifsud had denied responsibility for the blaze, saying the fire had started from the bus belonging to Emanuel Mifsud, adding that his own bus and another belonging to Nathaniel Spiteri were also destroyed.

Emanuel Mifsud disputed the total cost of the damages and said he should not have been called into the case since he was facing separate proceedings. He also argued he was not the owner of the land.

Magistrate Gabriella Vella observed that the fire had broken out on a plot of land at Sliema Road corner with Guze Miceli Road belonging to Joseph Mifsud. It was adjacent to a block of apartments called Stella Maris.

PA had issued an enforcement notice

Three buses used to be illegally parked on the land. The Planning Authority had issued an enforcement notice because of unlawful development which had seen the change of use of the land into a bus park.

The court heard that on the day of the blaze, a bus belonging to Emanuel Mifsud had developed faults. Nonetheless, it was used during the day and parked at 11.30pm. The fire was noticed at 2.40am. It was concentrated on this bus but later also spread to the other two.

The court dismissed the plea by Emanuel Mifsud that he was facing separate proceedings, saying Mr and Mrs Spiteri were not party to them.

The court declared that Emanuel Mifsud was responsible for damages since it was his bus which had caught fire. He had been aware for several days of the faults which his bus had, but still continued to use it, telling the driver not to switch it off because of its electrical problems. This only made the problem worse. 

However, the court said that Joseph Mifsud was equally responsible for what had happened because he was using his property as a bus park when he did not hold a permit to do so and when the Planning Authority had issued an enforcement notice dated October 11, 2004.

"It is clear from the evidence that Joseph Mifsud was making illegal use and allowing the illegal use of his property and should therefore be held responsible for the damages caused," the court said.

The court dismissed pleas about the cost of the damages caused, saying it was satisfied with the workings made by an architect and the inquiries made by the insurance company.

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