Several witnesses have given vivid testimony about a fight between members of a pupil’s family and a 15 year-old student at a secondary school in Pembroke, as two men charged with attacking the student were released on bail this morning.
AFM Staff Sergeant Alexander Camilleri and his brother Feliciano Camilleri are pleading not guilty to charges of attacking and slightly injuring a 15-year-old pupil at the school, attacking and slightly injuring two teachers, insulting and threatening them, exceeding the limits of provocation, using obscene language in public and breaching the peace.
The 15 year-old in question was supposed to testify before magistrate Ian Farrugia this morning, but the court was told that he hadn’t yet spoken to his lawyer. The court ordered that the boy testify at a later stage.
“It is serious enough to take advice. Your lawyer will direct you. Do not waste time. Speak to your lawyer so you will be prepared,” was the Magistrate’s warning to the tall, slightly built and softly-spoken young Arab boy who appeared in court this morning, accompanied by his parents.
As the couple stood behind their son, Magistrate Ian Farrugia, presiding over the compilation of evidence against the brothers warned the youth that charges were likely to be pressed against him too, in the coming weeks, over his alleged attack upon a fellow-student or some other third party.
“If you choose to testify today, what you say may be brought against you as evidence. So you may either testify and say ‘I’m not afraid of the truth’ or else choose to speak to a lawyer instead,” the court explained. The young man nodded.
As the boy and his parents left the courtroom, prosecuting Inspector Joseph Xerri confirmed that charges would be issued against the boy before the juvenile court.
The court heard how the student had allegedly punched a younger pupil in the face and the younger boy had been taken to hospital. From the witness stand, an Assistant Headmistress said that it was school policy that in the case of any head injury, the child had to go to hospital for a check-up. The parents were also to be informed.
She had also been injured when the younger boy’s family had arrived. The woman said that Alexander Camilleri had lifted her up and that she had fallen to the ground, breaking her coccyx and bumping her head.
There was a school standard procedure that if there is a fight, one child is taken away until the other party is spoken to. But in this case there was “no time at all” she said.
A Learning Support Educator at the school said he had seen the two accused men coming towards the school entrance. The assistant head had told him to take them to the Clerk’s office.
Examined by lawyer Joe Giglio, appearing parte civile for the assistant head, he said he had taken them to the office of one of the school’s other assistant head teachers. “After a time I heard shouting and saw Ms [Assistant Head] on the floor and I went to assist her. The shouting was coming from the Clerk’s office. The witness saw the Assistant Head on the floor in the clerk’s office. The boy was on the floor too, he said. “When I went inside, Alexander Camilleri picked up a hole puncher and struck me in the head with it. Then I and another clerk took it from his hands. I was in so much shock that I don’t remember anything else.” The witness couldn’t remember any words being exchanged, explaining that doctors had told him that he might have had a slight concussion. He later clarified that the victim’s uncle had inadvertently hit him on the head with the heavy hole punch that he had grabbed off a desk, as he was about to strike the boy who had punched his nephew.
Before the altercation, outside the clerk’s office, he saw that the boy had told the two parents something, but wasn’t close enough to hear. “I saw the boy trying to take off his jacket. The assistant head stopped him…I think the assistant head stopped him from attacking the parents of the pupil whom he had already punched,” he said in cross-examination by lawyer Franco Debono.
A second Assistant Headmaster took the stand. “It was break time at 10:58am when a teacher approached and told me about an incident between two students. One was being treated at the clinic. The younger boy’s mother had been informed. I was given the name of the other child to tell him to go to the office.”
“I called the elder boy’s mother and said that we needed to talk to him in her presence because he had punched another boy.”
Near the clerk’s office, I found the younger boy, two teachers and the older boy who was waiting to come with me to wait for his parents. After some time three men came charging in. They approached the younger boy.” The witness pointed out the two accused as being two of the three men.
They asked the younger boy who had hit him. “’Who is he?’ they said.” At that moment the child indicated the older boy, said the witness. “I started moving them back to defuse the situation. Feliciano asked me if the bully was older than his son and in order to calm the situation I told him that he was the same age.”
Someone pulled the older boy into the Clerk’s office to protect him as the third man tried to calm his two companions down. “They tried to get inside the office for the boy, who stood his ground and made as if to take off his jacket.”
Pointing to Alexander Camilleri, he said he got the boy in a headlock and they fell to the ground whilst the third man had tried to stop him. “We put the elder boy inside the Clerk’s kitchenette and then everyone else left.”
Cross-examined by Debono he said the boy hadn’t been about to attack the men but was standing his ground, showing that he was unafraid.
“The argument was about water or ice tea according to the older boy,” he recalled.
The lawyer asked if it was prudent and wise to bring all these people together after such an incident.
“I knew that the older boy’s parents were still a long way away, so I was relieved that they weren’t going to meet. It was one of our mistakes, but the children didn’t confront each other.”
Asked about the boys’ stature, he said the older child is “15 and as tall as me,” the other was in form 3, “around 13 and much smaller.”
Debono asked whether the youth had invited the men to fight. The witness said he couldn’t hear what was said, but said that the youth’s action of taking off his jacket seemed like he was standing his ground. “He didn’t move towards them, for example.”
“Stand his ground from what?” asked the lawyer.
“They were going to go for him. I was one of the men holding them back. The nationality of the boy had been disclosed to the parents. One of the men said ‘today there will not be another black pupil in this school.’”
The older child didn’t have a history of violence, he said. “It’s a known fact that there is a heated environment between Libyan and Maltese children. For them, [the Libyans] they’re all friends, they help each other.”
The school clerk testified that she had called the police. “As I was on the line with 112, everyone came into my office. I asked that they send police to our school as soon as possible. I saw the men attacking a student. Grabbing his head and kicking him. I saw Alexander Camilleri taking the puncher from my desk, I tried to stop him but I was on the phone with 112. There was someone else trying to hold him back. I saw the Assistant Head on the floor,” she said.
“I was afraid he would kill him with the puncher,” she said. The third man had held Alexander Camilleri from advancing on the student and then took the men outside.
Bail was requested by the defence and opposed by the prosecution as there was still the alleged victim to testify as well as civilian witnesses. Azzopardi argued, however, that they weren’t civilians but public officials employed by the school.
Magistrate Ian Farrugia granted the men bail. Feliciano Camilleri ordered to sign bail book weekly, provide a €2000 deposit and a personal guarantee of €3000. Alexander Camilleri was also ordered to sign a bail book on a weekly basis, deposit €2500 and provide a personal guarantee of €2500.
The court sternly warned the men not to approach any of the witnesses or parties. “Don’t you dare in some way threaten the boy. Forget all that…The barbuljata is already done. Don’t make it any bigger.”
Original article found on The Malta Independent