A house collapsed, a woman died… but the court refuses to release the family assets

The husband of Miriam Pace, who was killed when her Ħamrun home collapsed in 2020, said revoking the warrants of two architects convicted of her manslaughter should have a chilling effect on others.

But the family, adds Carmel Pace, still cannot “close this dark chapter” because the court has still not released the property more than two years later.

“Revocation is a deterrent to other architects who should be fully responsible for their work,” Pace said.

Architects’ mandates will be automatically revoked at the request of the Chamber of Architects, Kamra tal-Peritibecause both were sentenced to prison terms of over a year, although the prison terms were suspended (see box).

The Pace House collapsed on March 2, 2020, following excavation work at a nearby building site intended for apartments. Miriam, 54, was found buried under the rubble a few hours later.

The facade of the Pace property is left standing after the rest of the house collapsed two years ago. PHOTO: MATTHEW MIRABELLI

Architects Roderick Camilleri and Anthony Mangion, along with excavation contractor Ludwig Dimech and construction worker Nicholas Spiteri, have pleaded not guilty to involuntary murder.

Camilleri and Mangion were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and involuntary damage to the property of others.

Camilleri was sentenced to 480 hours of community service and a fine of €10,000 while Mangion, as the site’s technical agent, was sentenced to 400 hours of community service and a fine of €8,000.

Last week, an appeals court converted their fines to suspended prison sentences.

Camilleri received a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years while Mangion received a 15-month prison sentence also suspended for two years.

The case against Dimech and Spiteri is still pending as they elected to be tried by jury.

Meanwhile, two years later, Ħamrun’s property remains seized by the court pending jury trial.

“We want to close this dark chapter”

Pace said the whole thing left the family “speechless”.

“On the one hand we have the court of appeal increasing the sentence from a fine to a suspended prison sentence [leading to an automatic revocation of the warrant by Kamra tal-Periti],” he said.

“But, on the other hand, we have the same court that issued a suspended prison sentence refusing to release our assets until the end of the jury trial.

“We want to be able to close this dark chapter that has been imposed on us. You’re asking me if we believe justice has been served? We have never sought an effective prison sentence, but we want justice done. We are the victims and we continue to be victims because we are not allowed to close this chapter,” he said, adding that the family had no idea when the trial was due.

Following the fatal collapse, the government had commissioned a report on the construction industry. Published 10 months later, it called for broad reform and warned that the sector was plagued by “deep-rooted problems”.

Recommendations ranged from a call to end the ‘very dangerous’ practice of cutting rock flush with party walls using excavation equipment known as a trencher, to a call for a significant government investment in law enforcement to end abuses in the sector.

How warrants are revoked

Andre Pizzuto, head of the Kamra tal-Periti, explains that an architect can lose a mandate in two ways: either following a decree of the criminal court, or after a decision taken by the council of the Kamra in accordance with the Periti law. .

In both cases, enforcement is carried out by the guarantee counsel.

Pizzuto explained that the criminal court can order the revocation of the mandate in the case of an architect convicted of a crime.

It is at the discretion of the court. In the case of Roderick Camilleri and Anthony Mangion, the court did not order the dismissal.

The Periti law also provides for a mechanism for revocation of mandates, independent of the courts. The board investigating an architect could decide to dismiss, suspend or issue a warning after giving the architect an opportunity to exculpate himself.

But if an architect is sentenced to a prison term of more than a year – even if suspended – the revocation of the mandate is automatic under the law.

To submit a new application, the person must meet the requirements of new warrant holders, including having impeccable police conduct.

However, the Periti law also provides for the possibility of reinstatement at the discretion of the Guarantee Board.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support us

About Jessica J. Bass

Check Also

Court ruling could release killer of Jennifer Mullin, 17, in Weymouth

WEYMOUTH — Joseph Mullin’s family had a small sense of closure in 1998, when a …