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A driver left him in a coma, then got away with it thanks to slow justice

A youth who spent two weeks in a coma and ended up with permanent injuries after being run over by a car while jogging three years ago has lashed out at the Maltese justice system, which he says is geared to help criminals rather than victims.

Matteo Grima, who is now 22, told Times of Malta that the present system needed a “radical overhaul” after the driver of the car that had hit him in April 2020 was cleared of the charges since the two-year time window to face justice had elapsed.

Sixty-four-year-old Raymond Camilleri was this week acquitted of all charges after Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace ruled that the charges were time-barred.

It emerged that Magistrate Nadine Lia’s inquiry into the April 23, 2020 accident was only concluded on January 12, 2022 – 21 months after the accident – while the charges against Camilleri were filed in July – three months over the two-year maximum prescribed at law.

The police, through the attorney general’s office, will be appealing the judgment.

If there are delays the prescription period must be prolonged- Matteo Grima

Police inspectors Roderick Attard and Charlotte Curmi conducted the prosecution.

Camilleri had lawyers Giannella de Marco and Charles Mercieca as defence counsel.

Grima, from Mtarfa, was jogging in Triq Ħad Dingli when he was hit by a car. He suffered serious head injuries and fell into a two-week coma before painstakingly making an almost full recovery from his life-changing injuries.

In an interview with Times of Malta, Grima expressed his frustration at the judgment, calling for a radical revamp of the present system that “promotes double victimisation”.

“It’s shameful. It seems like the court works for the criminal not the victim, as crazy as this sounds. The system is failed and needs to change.

“I went through hell and the person who caused it was let off the hook thanks to court delays. Dropping a criminal case simply because two years have passed since the incident is the biggest farce I have ever heard,” he said.

“If there are these delays and the justice system cannot cope, then it’s only fair that the prescription period must be prolonged,” he added.

He asked why the time-barring window doesn’t start once the inquiry is completed and forwarded to the police, rather than from the time of the incident.

Grima said he attended three court sittings and was not even called to testify, despite not remembering anything of what happened. He said CCTV foot­age was exhibited in court which, although not capturing the moment of impact, shows him flying in the air and landing 16 metres away. He said he missed lectures to attend court hearings but was never allowed to speak.

Despite passing through this trauma, Grima continued to pursue his studies, graduated in architecture and is now reading for a master’s.

He admits that doctors’ orders to stop playing football were “very difficult” but he is instead a football coach at Balzan FC’s youth nursery.

He said it took a lot of personal sacrifice to get where he is today. The accident left him with a titanium plate replacing the one-third of his skull that had to be removed to reduce swelling of the brain. He admitted that “the mental difficulties were far greater than the physical ones”.

“I was ashamed of my scar at first and grew my hair long to try cover it but now I’m OK with it. I fell into depression soon after the accident. There were days when I wouldn’t even want to get out of bed.

“With the help of professionals, especially my neuro psycho­logist, I fought back and I will not let this affect me,” he said.

On the contrary, he said he wanted to speak out and use his voice to change things and to change the system.

“It’s a situation that many people are going through, so it needs to change. It’s not acceptable that people do not feel comfortable on the roads. It seems like traffic laws are there to be broken, not observed. The speed limits are good but it’s people’s mentality that needs to change. This only comes with more enforcement. And the court has to work for justice,” Grima said.

“Just as I remained resilient over these last three years, I will continue to stay strong and fight for justice, maybe this country can stop being so mediocre,” he added.