Updated | Court drops case against ornithologist over illegal trapping

Fiona Burrows had been asked by the police to help investigate illegal trapping but ended up in court after the trapper sued her for trespassing 

Fiona Burrows (pictured) has been cleared of illegally trespassing on a trapper's land
Fiona Burrows (pictured) has been cleared of illegally trespassing on a trapper's land

The courts have dropped a case against an ornithologist, who had been charged with trespassing on a bird trapper’s land, where she had been investigating illegal trapping last December.

Fiona Burrows, the wildlife crime officer of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), said she had been requested by the Naxxar police to help in a case of illegal trapping of plovers on that particular site on that day. However, the trapper said the ornithologist had been alone in his field. 

CABS sent a statement to the press claiming that the court today acquitted Burrows of the charges and that the trapper, whose case is still pending, had known that she was assisting the police but filed the charges so as to intimidate her.

“This is just one of many examples of how the [hunting lobby] FKNK and their members are systematically wasting police and court resources by filing false reports to defame and muzzle birdwatchers who have witnessed hunting crimes,” the German-based NGO said.

However, the FKNK’s lawyer Kathleen Grima told MaltaToday that she had personally suggested that the case be dropped as a sign of goodwill, on condition that Burrows agree not to set foot into that field again unless accompanied by the police. 

She said that Burrows had agreed to the suggestion, which led to magistrate Grezio Mercieca dropping the case.

Back in December, CABS accused the FKNK of specifically targeting Burrows, noting that its officials had questioned whether the wildlife officer “is really trying to protect the birds or just attempting to justify trespassing and deliberately damaging private property”.

Burrows was one of four activists who in 2012 were prosecuted in court because the FKNK had insisted that they were breaking the law by publishing a picture of themselves with three illegally-shot birds – a case the court threw out three years later.

In 2016, the FKNK falsely accused and reported Burrows of illegally intercepting trappers’ mobile phones with a mysterious said she had installed. The alleged “sky equipment” later turned out to be a seismic monitoring apparatus installed by the University of Malta.