What do vagrants, fortune-tellers, and streakers have in common? They’re illegal in Malta

Depenalisation of 40 crimes reveals less serious offences in the Criminal Code that will now be adjudged by judicial commissioners rather than magistrates

Have you ever walked past a fortification and cut grass from its environs for whatever reason? If you did, you probably were unaware it is a crime.

And if you were booked for it, you’d have to appear in front of a magistrate, who will probably be dealing with a murder case just after your sitting.

Cutting grass in or about any fortification without permission is one of the lesser offences in the Criminal Code, which have now been depenalised and will be considered as an administrative offence. Throwing building material and rubbish in any ditch or near a fortification is another offence that has been depenalised.

Law Commissioner Antonio Mizzi has identified 40 minor offences at law that will now be determined by judicial commissioners rather than magistrates. The offences will still remain illegal but will be treated just like parking on a double yellow line and the cases determined by local tribunals.

But Mizzi’s exercise has lifted the lid on some of the lesser known offences that would surprise many.

Allowing any “insane person” under your custody “to go about at large” is an offence as is opening and keeping “any place for public divine worship” without a license.

Any person who “pretends to be a diviner, fortune-teller or an interpreter of dreams” and takes advantage of the “credulity of others, for the purpose of gain”, is illegal.

You probably know that rowdiness or bawling that disturbs the repose of people at night time is illegal but you’d be surprised to learn that if you leave a ladder exposed in the street or an open space could land you in trouble. Well, the law would consider the latter act as aiding thieves or wrong-doers to make improper use of the object.

But the list does not end here. Wearing a mask or disguise in any public place, quarrelling or fighting even in jest in the street to the annoyance or injury of passers-by and being naked or indecently dressed on the seashore or a public place, are all offences that will now be judged by local tribunals.

And in what is a remnant of times past by when animal transport was rife, it is illegal to drive animals “over a drawbridge” otherwise than at an amble.

Calling a doctor, surgeon, obstetrician, or priest, to attend to a person who has been falsely represented to be sick, is also a crime.

Leading “an idle and vagrant life” and begging in public places goes against the law as is running violently in a street or open space with the risk of injuring other people or running into them.

And teenagers better be advised that anybody over 15 years of age who uses playing equipment in a children’s playground is breaking the law and can end up in front of the justice commissioner.

Selection of offences that will be judged by local tribunals

  • Cutting grass without permission in or near fortifications and throwing waste in the ditch or vicinity of fortifications
  • Refusal to help and give information when required to do so by a public authority in the event of a tumult or calamity
  • Allow an insane person under his custody to go about at large
  • Having no possessions and no means of subsistence and failing to habitually endeavour to engage in or exercise some art, trade or other occupation
  • Keep a place for public divine worship without being duly licensed
  • Taking advantage of the credulity of others, for the purpose of gain and pretends to be a diviner, fortune-teller or an interpreter of dreams
  • At night time, disturbs the repose of the inhabitants by rowdiness or bawling
  • Wears any mask, or disguises himself in any public place, except at the time and in the manner allowed by law
  • Leaves exposed in any street, open space, field, or other public place, any ladder, iron bar, weapon, or other instrument, of which an improper use might be made by thieves or other wrong-doers, or which might cause any injury
  • Exposes himself naked or is indecently dressed in the harbours, on the seashore or in any other public place
  • Quarrels or fights, although jestingly, in any street or open space to the annoyance or injury of passers-by
  • Drives animals over a drawbridge otherwise than at an amble
  • Engages in conspiracy with persons of the same profession or business with the object of raising or lowering the price of any article, or the wages of labour, or of imposing conditions to the prejudice of the public
  • Causes any physician, surgeon, obstetrician, or priest, to attend on or visit any person whom he falsely represents to be sick
  • Leads an idle and vagrant life and harasses others when begging for alms in a public place
  • Being a parent or a spouse, leaves his children or spouse or parents in want, whether in consequence of his or her disorderly living or laziness
  • Runs violently in any street or open space, with the risk of running into and injuring other persons
  • Wilfully disturbs the public good order or the public peace
  • Found drunk and incapable of taking care of himself in a public place or place open to the public
  • A person over 15 years of age who uses any playing equipment at a children’s playground
  • Challenges another to fight with stones or threatens others with stones or other hard substances, or throws the same, or takes up any other weapon against without injuring the other person
  • Throws stones, other hard substances or any dirt at the terraces, roofs, windows, doors, courtyards, lamps or walls of houses of other persons, or of any other building; or knocks at the door, or rings the bell of any other person’s house or building
  • Attempts to use force against any person with intent to insult, annoy or hurt such person or others, unless the fact constitutes some other offence under the law
  • Through carelessness throws water, or other liquid, or filth upon any person
  • Frightens others in a manner that might cause harm although this is done in jest
  • Shoots doves or pigeons, other than wild doves or pigeons, belonging to others
  • Plucks or eats the fruit or other produce from fields belonging to any other person