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13 November 2014
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Steven Marsden

Held without trial - Steven Marsden.

Jailed without trial

Steven Marsden, from Bristol, has been locked up in a Maltese prison for more than two years. He’s accused of drug smuggling but he’s never had a trial and the Maltese authorities haven’t found any illegal drugs.

His case has been taken up by the Fair Trials International campaign group. 

The organisation’s lawyer, Saima Hirji says, "He has now spent 26 months in a foreign prison for charges which simply don’t stand up to scrutiny." 

Steven was arrested in July 2006, coming off a boat from Sicily.

Drug squad officers say they were acting on a tip-off after months of investigations.

Hidden in his car were more than 50,000 pills, thought to be the biggest haul of ecstasy ever uncovered on the island.


It looked like a straight forward case but two months after the seizure it was discovered that the pills were not ecstasy, but a chemical called mCPP.

The chemical is often sold as an alternative to ecstasy for clubbers.

Prison bars

Behind bars but without a fair trial.

At the time of Steven’s arrest mCPP was not unlawful in Malta.

Steven insists he knew the pills weren’t illegal and only hid them to avoid any hassle from customs officers.

The police say it’s irrelevant what the pills turned out to be.

They insist that Steven intended to bring in ecstasy and should therefore face a charge of conspiracy to smuggle drugs.

mCPP fact file

* mCPP shares several pharmacological properties with MDMA (ecstasy).

* As a recreational drug mCPP is known for its stimulant properties. It can result in pleasant intoxication and can also have hallucinogenic effects.

* Negative side-effects can include headaches, panic attacks, drowsiness, dizziness, and a negative mood dependent on the amount taken.

* mCPP is not listed under the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

A parody of justice?

Steven’s pleas to be released on bail have all been rejected.

The authorities fear he could flee the island.

His lawyer, Joseph Brincat, says:

"I have been practising in the criminal courts for the last 38 years and Mr Marsden’s case is a parody of justice."

Back home in Bristol, Steven has a daughter, Emma Bartholomew, who is campaigning for his release.

Emma would like her dad to be able to see the grand daughter he’s never met.

She’ll be two-years-old in November 2008.

Campaign for release

Inside Out West travels to Malta with Emma to visit her father for the first time since his imprisonment.

Maltese prison

Incarcerated in prison - Steven Marsden.

Emma has never doubted his innocence and claims she had checked the legal status of the pills on the internet for her dad before he tried to bring them into Malta.

Emma is allowed to spend a few hours with her dad at Malta’s Corradino Correctional Facility.

She says, "No matter how long it takes or what I have to do, I won’t stop until my father is released from this horrible place."

The Maltese Attorney General declined to meet with Emma.

He says delays in dealing with the case have been caused by various legal appeals filed by Steven’s lawyers.

last updated: 24/09/2008 at 11:19
created: 23/09/2008

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