Malta: A bird trapper given suspended sentence for assault on BirdLife volunteers

A Maltese bird trapper has been handed a suspended sentence and fined for an assault on 2 BirdLife volunteers which left one victim needing dental surgery. Conservation manager Nicholas Barbara requiring dental surgery to repair broken teeth resulting from the unprovoked attack in Delimara earlier this year.

Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara told Magistrate Anthony Vella about the incident, which occurred earlier this year, after he and a BirdLife colleague had been accosted by the man, his brother and father, whilst on a public path.

“We were in Delimara and heard bird callers and had walked towards the sound. On our way, we passed a man tilling a field. He later walked ahead of us, talking on his mobile phone.”

Barbara told the court that he had peered over the field’s boundary wall and had seen bird traps. As he was instructing another volunteer to film it he saw the men approaching. The men asked the bird-loving conservationists to come into the field, but Barbara politely declined, pointing out that they could see what they needed from outside.

Barbara was punched twice, whilst Conservation Officer Nicola Piludu was knocked to the ground.

“As we left, we informed Birzebbugia police station, but when they arrived the district police were hesitant to follow, saying it was private property and they needed a warrant to enter.” Barbara told the officers that he had seen the illegal activity from the road, pointing towards a room with a lights on inside. The police insisted that they needed a warrant, said the conservation manager.

The men emerged from the field and a disturbance kicked off, said Barbara. “The older of the three accused grabbed a rock and was about to throw it but at that moment the ALE arrived and calmed the situation down, ordering us to move away.”

Barbara told the court that he had suffered two chipped teeth in the attack and submitted medical certificates as evidence.

Johnsilv Galea testified in his defence. “I was there with the mechanical shovel and looked behind me. I saw someone on the wall…not on the wall, near it. I went to check who it was and he got down. He was carrying a camera.

“The dark-skinned one [Piludu] came towards me and I hit him with my palm in the face,” said the accused, demonstrating the motion with his hand. The court pointed out that he had also hit Barbara and injured him. “Yes, then I had hit him too.”

The Magistrate noted that the accused did not seem very sorry for his actions and leafing through his conviction sheet, he noted that the accused had five previous convictions from his court alone. Galea also had a previous sentence for assaulting a policeman.

“I don’t know where we can go from here. All we have done has proved to be for nothing and ineffective,” said the magistrate, at a loss.

The court imposed a €200 fine on each of the three accused, aside from ordering them to pay Barbara’s €270 dentist bill. Johnsilv Galea alone was handed a two-month sentence, suspended for two years, for relapsing.

Lawyer Marion Camilleri appeared for the men. Inspector Jurgen Vella prosecuted.

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