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Punishment for man convicted of vicious Gozo 'baseball bat' road rage assault 'upgraded' on appeal

The Court of Criminal Appeal has revoked a conditional discharge handed to a man in Gozo last year over a road rage assault in which a baseball bat or metal bar had been used to inflict severe injuries, imposing a suspended sentence in its stead.

38-year-old Justin Vella had originally been handed a three-year conditional discharge by the Court of Magistrates in Gozo in a decision handed down last December, having pleaded guilty to charges of grievous bodily harm, breaching the peace and assault.

The violent incident had taken place in Triq l-Imġarr, in Għajnsielem, Gozo during the early afternoon of January 8, 2022, when Vella, in reaction to what he perceived as the victim’s reckless driving, had first blocked its path with his car and then emerged from his vehicle wielding what the court said was “a baseball bat or metal pipe” before proceeding to strike the other driver with it.

The victim ended up requiring stitches to his face as a result of the assault, during which one of his teeth had also been knocked out.

The Court of Criminal Appeal, presided by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera upheld the appeal filed by the Attorney General, who had argued that Vella’s punishment was too lenient, also pointing out that he had chosen not to contest any of the charges.

The judge noted that the charges Vella had admitted to were punishable by imprisonment for a period of between one and seven years and that his criminal record showed several previous convictions for violent crimes for which he had received conditional discharges as well as a suspended sentence.

None of these punishments seemed to have had the desired effect of keeping him away from criminality, observed the court, which also overturned Vella’s acquittal on the recidivism charge, and neither had he compensated the victim for the injuries he inflicted.

The judge sentenced Vella to imprisonment for two years, suspended for four.

A one-year restraining order was also issued in favour of the victim.

Inspector Josef Gauci prosecuted.