Judge reprimands prosecution as illegal hunting conviction overturned on appeal

Judge criticises prosecution’s failure to summon important witnesses before the court

(File photo)
(File photo)

A man’s €1,500 fine for illegal hunting has been overturned on appeal, with the judge criticising the prosecution’s failure to summon important witnesses before the court of first instance.

The Court of Criminal Appeal presided by Madame Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera revoked the man’s conviction by the Court of Magistrates for hunting during the closed season in 2020.

The man, Jesmond Saliba, had been arrested after being spotted hunting with a shotgun near Birzebbugia by CABS volunteers, who had informed the police.

The judge expressed “great disappointment” at the fact that important witnesses, including the CABS volunteers, were not brought to testify before the court of first instance.

It was also noted that despite the police report and affidavits released by the officers in question stating that Saliba had signed a declaration, refusing to consult with a lawyer before interrogation, this declaration was not exhibited. “It is true that these are summary proceedings, however the police must be prepared and not rely principally on reports compiled by CABS.”

The court reminded the prosecution that it was obliged to exhibit the best evidence to prove his case, whilst Saliba was not required to prove anything.

Noting that the only evidence it had in hand were affidavits by police officers who went to the scene but did not see the accused.

“With all due respect, with such weak evidence, this court definitely cannot be convinced that the hunter is guilty of the charges he is facing beyond reasonable doubt.”

The court of Magistrates had disregarded Saliba’s evidence and rested solely on the prosecution’s witnesses, none of whom had recognised Saliba in the courtroom and had not proven that the shotgun in question belonged to him or was in his possession, said the judge.

The court acquitted Saliba of all charges, ordering that a copy of the judgement be served on the director of the Criminal Courts to ensure that testimony heard by courts of first instance are included in the acts before appellate courts from now on.

The judge also ordered that the Commissioner of Police ensure that such proceedings are prosecuted with greater attention and together with complete evidence.