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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Suspended sentence for policeman hunting illegally in Malta

A policeman who last year was caught hunting illegally during the close season in Gozo has been given a one-month jail term, but suspended for a year.

Fabio Schembri, 22, was filmed hunting near il-Fanal ta' Gordan on Gozo, by one of the teams of foreign volunteers participating in the Birdwatching mission by Birdlife.

The film in question showed two men wearing white balaclavas, one holding a gun and every so often firing the weapon. Later, it showed the same two men on a motorbike being intercepted by police officers. By this time they had removed their balaclavas.

Magistrate Edwina Grima who was hearing the case said that in his testimony Fabio Schembri had given different versions of what had happened. At first he said that he had gone birdwatching, but later on he changed his version and stated that he had gone for a walk with the other hunter.

The Magistrate said she could not ignore the fact that the accused was a policeman who had been in the force for two years before the incident occurred.

Max Farrugia, Chairman of International Animal Rescue in Malta was disappointed with the leniency of the sentence and said that the Magistrate should not have given Schembri a second chance. There had been no confiscation of his firearm and no heavy fine. The fact that the policeman was caught breaking the very laws he was sworn to uphold should have resulted in a severe sentence. Farrugia concluded: "How can the Court expect the public to respect the courts when we keep getting farcical sentences like this? It's laughable!

In a different sitting at the Malta Courts in Valletta a hunter was yesterday cleared of trying to kill another hunter in an argument over territory some four years ago.

In a trial by jury, Carmelo Sultana, 42, of Attard was found not guilty by seven votes to two of attempted murder, but guilty of causing minor injuries to the victim, Constantine Borg, while acting in self-defence.

He was also found not guilty by six votes to two of the illegal possession of a penknife.