Police deny claims it refused to investigate illegal trapping

Police dismiss CABS claims of ‘anarchy’ of illegalities at night in recent golden plover trapping season

The police have vehemently denied claims that it had refused to investigate cases of trappers illegally trapping golden plover at night.

A police spokesperson dismissed recent warnings by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) that the illegal trapping of golden plover at night was widespread.

“On the night of November 26, the peak of the golden plover’s migration season, not a single bird caller was heard in Malta,” Roberta Grima said in a statement.

CABS in December described the illegal night trapping situation as an “anarchy”, warning that plovers were trapped illegally every night and in every part of the island.

CABS wildlife crime officer Fiona Burrows claimed that district police often told the volunteers that it is not their job to enforce trapping regulations. She said that in one case on 30 November, an officer on the phone told CABS that they had specific instructions not to investigate.

“The problem is that the ALE, who normally deal with trapping cases, are only very rarely on duty during the night and that the local police feel that they are not responsible,” Burrows said.

She added that CABS teams had not witnessed any direct action by police, despite having reported 14 cases of illegal night trapping since the golden plover trapping season was opened in November. 

“One trapping site on the Delimara peninsula was reported to the police on 13, 15, 18 and 30 November but in all four nights the police either did not attend or the officers on the phone said that they were instructed not to come,” she said.

The golden plover trapping season has since closed.

MaltaToday had immediately contacted police commissioner Michael Cassar as soon as CABS made their claims, but he told the newspaper to send their questions to the police force’s official media channels.

The police spokesperson rubbished CABS’ claims, insisting that trapping at night “does not happen Roberta on the scale depicted by them”.

She retorted that district police did in fact inspect a number of trapping sites identified by CABS during the last trapping season - including at Bingemma, Gharghur, Siggiewi, Wied Garnaw and Tas-Silg Chapel.

“District police have the same powers and duties as ALE officers. Every report should be dealt in the same manner, be it a police officer from the district or any other branch,” she said.

“No orders have been issued to the district police to refuse to investigate such illegalities. Every police officer must prevent any crimes and if a crime occurs, it must be investigated and the culprits must be charged accordingly.”

The police also took issue with CABS’ criticism of a lack of presence by ALE officers on the field during the night.

“Although the ALE does not routinely conduct night patrols on a regular basis, it has nevertheless often patrolled the countryside at night,” Grima said.

“This autumn, ALE officers conducted discreet night patrols during the night, where some proved successful. Although the number of detected illegalities is low, it is nevertheless considered to be successful.”

She added that ALE working hours have also been adjusted so that officers can commence work before the standard 5am, with the sole purpose of curbing illegal night trapping.