A local man was jailed for three years and four months this week for committing a robbery at knifepoint, as a judge warned that Gibraltar’s courts would take a stern stance on knife crime.
Puisne Judge Karen Ramagge Prescott said anecdotal evidence pointed to a rise in offences involving knives in Gibraltar, adding that it was important to stem that trend before it become a serious problem.
Ziade Attou, 32, of Paradise Ramp, had pleaded guilty to one count of robbery for the incident last August.
He had pulled a lock knife on a man and teenager with the chilling warning: “£20 is better than 20 stabs.”
The court heard Attou approached the man and the 16-year old boy on Castle Steps and asked them for money while producing a foldable knife which he opened in front of the complainants.
He then placed the knife, with a blade exceeding three inches, behind his back and asked them for money again.
Both victims feared for their safety and handed him a £20.
The matter was reported to the police and Attou was arrested on suspicion of robbery.
In the custody area in the police station, the defendant also spat at police officers and began threatening the officer and his family.
He was further arrested and later charged with assault on a police officer and making threats to kill, offences to which he also subsequently pleaded guilty.
While sentencing, Mrs Justice Ramagge Prescott described the robbery as the most serious of the offences.
“The knife was drawn, shown and placed behind your back,” she said.
“That in itself is a threat of violence.”
She said the comment made at his victims was “indicative of [his] state of mind”.
Attou’s lawyer Owen Smith argued that knife crime in Gibraltar should be sentenced using local own guidelines, rather than relying on UK guidelines. Knife crime has become a major source of concern in Britain, with police and the courts responding robustly.
But this was rejected by Mrs Justice Prescott Ramagge.
“In the absence of statistics it is not possible to determine whether knife-related crime is on the increase in Gibraltar or whether per capita it is better or worse than in the UK,” she said.
“Even though I do not rely on it, anecdotally I have a sense that more knife crime is coming before the Supreme Court.”
“In any event it seems to me as important or perhaps more so to stem the use of bladed articles in a community before it becomes a significant issue as it is to stem their use after they have become a significant issue.”
“I find no reason to depart from the guidelines and the clear and important message must be that where a knife is drawn in circumstances such as these, the court will treat the matter seriously in accordance with the guidelines.”
Mrs Justice Ramagge Prescott there were a number of aggravating factors, including the fact that one of the victims was a youngster, that Attou was under the influence of drink or drugs, and that he has similar previous convictions.
She said there appears to have been “little or no planning” and this appears to have been an “opportunistic offence”.
Mrs Justice Ramagge Prescott accepted the defendant’s remorse and commended him for taking part in a counselling service while in prison to address drink and drug abuse.
Attou’s sentence was reduced by six months to one of four years and six months for taking steps to address his offending behaviour.
This was further reduced to three years for entering an early guilty plea.
As for the assault on police he was sentenced to four months in prison and a further two for making threats to kill, to be served concurrently.
In total, he will be jailed for three years and four months as both separate incidents will be served consecutively.
Mark Zammit appeared for the Crown.