Two men facing imprisonment for drug trafficking and possession were instead handed a suspended sentence due to amendments made to the law.
Jason Abela, 47, and Denis Borg, 40, who were undergoing separate criminal proceedings charged with drug trafficking were both found guilty by the Criminal Court.
Jason Abela, in 2002 had been arrested for suspected heroin trafficking. He was taken into custody after being observed selling drugs. Denis Borg, in 2007 had been arrested while driving his car in Mriehel, found to be in possession of €2,580 in cash and several sachets containing 25% pure cocaine.
Both men admitted to a drug addiction at the time of the arrest. Currently, both men went through rehabilitation and are now clean. Had their case been sent for trial by the Criminal Court, the men would have faced a mandatory prison sentence of at least four years and a possible life sentence, but under the new law the court of Magistrates was no longer bound to do so.
On the basis of all evidence, Magistrate Neville Camilleri, assigned to hear both cases in 2015, declared both accused guilty as charged. However, after the introduction of Chapter 537, the Drug Dependence (Treatment Not Imprisonment) Act in 2015 and its subsequent amendments, the punishment for drug crimes was reduced in some cases.
The cases of Mr Abela and Mr Borg were the first to implement the amended Act in respect of persons who were originally going to be tried by the Criminal Court. Rather than effective imprisonment, Borg was sentenced to 16 months in prison suspended for three years and Abela was handed a 12-month suspended prison sentence for two years.
Dr Joseph Giglio, who appeared for the two men, hailed the decisions as "landmark judgments."
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