Malta / Court of Criminal Appeal (Inferior)

Policy area
Justice, freedom and security
Deciding body type
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding body
Court of Criminal Appeal (Inferior)
Decision date
  • Malta / Court of Criminal Appeal (Inferior)

    Key facts of the case:

    On 21 June 2018, seven people used fireworks and flammable materials. They were later accused of a having violated the Second Schedule B(d) of LS 33.03, which defines the conditions to be respected when using specific kinds of fireworks.  

    In May 2022, the Court of Magistrates held that the defendants’ actions were committed in negligence and violated the traffic regulations, leading to a serious offence of other persons and their surroundings. The defendants were fined €15,000 each under Article 29 Chapter 33 of the Laws of Malta.  

    E.C. and S.B. appealed before the Court of Criminal Appeal , claiming that the imposed penalty was disproportionately harsh in view of the crime. The appellants alleged that the first-instance court’s decision was in violation of their fundamental rights to proportionate punishment under Article 49(3) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. They cited Article 52 of the Charter, as well as the Guidelines of the European Council in relation to Article 52. According to the appellants, these guidelines explain that “the proportionality principle requires the measure to have a direct and logical link with the purpose of achieving the objective pursued”.  

    Key legal question raised by the Court:

    Was the principle of proportionality respected when imposing a penalty on the defendants under Article 29 of Chapter 33? 

    Outcome of the case:

    While analysing the proportionality of the penalty complained, the Court points out that it is appropriate to modify the first-instance judgement only to the extent where the first-instance court imposed a punishment outside the law or it was disproportionate to the crime. Although the offence falls within the provisions of Chapter 33 of the Malta Laws, the punishment had not been proportionate considering the circumstances of the case. A punishment under Article 11 of Chapter 446 of the Laws of Malta, which allows for community service or a probation order was deemed to be more reasonable by the Court. Therefore, the Court upheld the applicant's argument under Articles 49(3) and 52 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and replaced the pecuniary penalty under Article 29 of Chapter 33 of the Laws of Malta with a community service order. 

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter

    Article 49 (3) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union stipulates that: The severity of the crime should not be disproportionate to the crime. 

    Additionally, Article 52 of the same document continues by explaining that: 

    “Every limitation in exercising the rights and liberties recognises that this Charter has a provision in the law that has to respect the essence of these rights and liberties. Subject to the principle of proportionality, limits may be placed in such cases where it is necessary and where they are genuinely required for the objectives of the general interests recognised by the Union or the duty to protect the rights and liberties of others.” 

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language)

    L-Artikolu 49(3) tal-Karta tad-Drittijiet Fundamentali tal-Unjoni Ewropea jistipula illi: ‘ Is-severità tal-piena m’ ghandhiex tkun sproporzjonata ghar-reat.’ 

    Di piu, l-artikolu 52 tal-istess dokument ikompli jispjega li:

    “Kull limitazzjoni fl-ezercizzju tad-drittijiet u tal-libertajiet rikonoxxuti minn din il-Karta ghandha tkun prevista mil-ligi u ghandha tirrispetta l-essenza ta’ dawk id-drittijiet u l-libertajiet. Bla hsara ghall-principju ta’ proporzjonalità, jistghu jsiru limitazzjonijiet f’ dawk il-każijiet biss fejn ikun mehtieg u fejn genwinament jintlahqu l-objettivi ta’ interess generali rikonoxxuti mill-Unjoni jew il-htieġa li jigu protetti d-drittijiet u l-libertajiet ta’ ohrajn.”