False criminal report and calumnious accusations are separate offences

A court presided by Magistrate Joseph Mifsud explained that the charges of a false criminal report and calumnious accusations may be factually similar, however, from a legal point of view they are two separate and distinct charges

A court presided by Magistrate Joseph Mifsud explained in its judgement of 17 August, 2016 in The Police v Eebis Getu, that the charges of a false criminal report and calumnious accusations may be factually similar, however, from a legal point of view they are two separate and distinct charges.

The accused, Eebis Getu was charged with having filed a false police report and with not obeying a legitimate order. She admitted these charges.

The court examined the facts of the case where the accused is an Ethiopian national who arrived in Malta on 28 July, 2016. She filed a report with the police that she was kept prisoner by a Kuwaiti family in Malta for five days and she had managed to escape for fear of her life. She later admitted to the police that this was a lie and explained that she had met a Somali person who gave her advice to invent this story in order to be given refugee status. She further explained that she did live with a Kuwaiti family, who had tied her, but this family never came to Malta. She explained that she worked for this family but was locked up and beaten. She arrived in Malta with a false passport, since her passport was kept by the Kuwaiti family. She bought the false passport in exchange for a gold chain.

The court then analysed the legal points of this case. Article 110(2) of the Criminal Code reads: “Whosoever shall lay before the Executive Police an information regarding an offence knowing that such offence has not been committed, or shall falsely devise the traces of an offence in such a manner that criminal proceedings may be instituted for the ascertainment of such offence, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.”

Professor Mamo explains this crime as one which misleads the administration of justice and which causes an inconvenience and expense to the police. This is different from calumnious accusations, which do not have a specific accusation against a specific person and no intent to cause an innocent person to be unjustly convicted. The court also quoted from a 1998 judgement The Police -v- David Mizzi, where the Court of Criminal Appeal held that calumnious accusations may be divided into an actual and an indirect simulation and a verbal and direct simulation. The former is when evidence is falsely created to have criminal proceedings initiated. Verbal or direct simulations are when someone files a police report, knowing that it is false. The court gave examples of an anonymous bomb threat or the breaking of a quarter window to give a false theft report. In calumnious accusations there is no specific person in sight.  

Professor Mamo further explains in his Notes on Criminal Law: “The specific malice of this crime consists in the intent to deceive or mislead justice by denouncing or making appear an offence which is known not to have been committed and not in the intent to harm, directly by the simulation, any other person”. 

The court concluded that from the evidence produced it is clear that when the accused filed the report, she knew very well that it was a false report. 

Regarding the second charge of not obeying a legitimate order, the court observed that a legitimate order is considered to be such when on the face of it that order is legitimate. The court noted that in this case the police wasted four days trying to find the Kuwaiti family. 

In passing judgement the court took into consideration that the accused admitted to the charges immediately and also that she did what she did in order to be with her husband in Malta.

Magistrate Mifsud referred to what Pope Francis said last June, where today’s information technology brings suffering of others instantly, but we also become immune to tragedies and sufferings. Sufferings have a face, that of a baby, family, the young and the old. Furthermore, the Pope said that compassion is not the pity and full stop but to join the suffering and to take a risk for these people in need. The court commented that although it believes in what the Pope said the accused should have applied for protection at the Refugee Commission. The police wanted to assist her in filing this application, but she at first insisted on her story. The court wanted to give her a chance to apply for asylum and therefore handed down a year’s imprisonment suspended for two years. 

Dr Malcolm Mifsud, partner, Mifsud & Mifsud Advocate