Officers testify to Christmas market organiser’s threats and insults after December assault

Police officers tell court they were subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse from the organiser of the Ta’ Xbiex Christmas Market while responding to a report of a fight there, last December

File photo
File photo

Police officers have described how they were subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse from the organiser of the Ta’ Xbiex Christmas Market while responding to a report of a fight there, last December.

Jean Paul Micallef, 38, from San Ġwann, stands charged with resisting arrest, damaging property belonging to the police force, threatening police officers during the course of their duties and disobeying legitimate police orders. He is also accused of making threats and uttering insults against seven police officers, as well as breaching the peace.

The incident in question took place at Xatt it-Tiben, Ta’ Xbiex on December 5, at around 3am. He is denying the charges and is out on unsecured bail.

It emerged in court this morning that Micallef, a director and shareholder of the company which had been organising the Christmas Market in Ta’ Xbiex, had been involved in a fight with a group of youths who had refused to leave the area where the Christmas Village was being built. After the confrontation was over, someone had called the police to report the incident. 

The officers had arrived around five minutes later, the court was told today, finding a bloodied and very agitated Micallef, who repeatedly insisted that the police had to act quickly, as the car used by the assailants was still in the area. But it emerged in court today that the accused had also refused to give his full particulars to the police and had threatened -amongst other things- to later ‘find’ the officers who were on the scene, implying that he would exact some sort of revenge.

The decision was then taken to arrest him, but Micallef had refused to come quietly, the court was told, lashing out and hitting one of the officers. After he was forcefully subdued and handcuffed, he had kicked and damaged the police car that he was placed in.

From the witness stand, a female police sergeant explained how during the early hours of December 5, the police had received a report of an argument at the place where the Christmas Village was being constructed in Ta’ Xbiex. While the police were preparing to get into their vehicles to go to the scene, a car had pulled up outside the police station, driven by a man with blood on his face. The man told the officers to be there within five minutes.

“The man was in a very excited state. He threatened to make us lose our jobs and to attack us. He called one of the officers a ‘midget’ and threatened to find another male officer later,” the witness said.

While the officer had been speaking to another person at the scene, the man had arrived in his car.

The bloodied man, who she said, was later identified as Jean Paul Micallef, was telling the police that he needed an ambulance. “He was also refusing to let the police enter the parking area, because he said it was his property.” 

While the officer was trying to speak to him and jotting down notes in her notebook, the man had snatched the notebook away and pushed her, she said. “Force had to be used to subdue him and he was arrested.”

While waiting for an ambulance to arrive, Micallef had damaged the interior of the RIU police car, she said. He was then transported to hospital in the ambulance.

“I wanted to gather as much information as I could to establish what happened and what led to the argument,” the witness said under cross-examination by prosecuting Police Inspector Eman Hayman.

All of the officers who testified today confirmed to the court that they had travelled to the crime scene in police cars and had been in uniform at the time.

The man was arrested at 3:17am and was taken to hospital at around 4am, she said.

“He was still agitated at the hospital and the manner in which he was speaking to the doctors showed that he still hadn’t calmed down.” 

The officer said she had also sought treatment for an injury to her lip that had been inflicted by the accused while she had been trying to get her notebook back. “He was waving his hands around. There was a bit of a commotion,” said the witness, adding that the entire incident had been captured on video by the police officers’ body cams.

The officer told the court that from her initial investigation it had emerged that the fight had started after a group of young people had sat down to eat on a bench at the site where the market was being built. The people setting up the Christmas market didn’t want them there, she explained.

She had spent almost half an hour trying to calm Micallef down and get his version of events, she said, but his attitude and behaviour had forced her to have to focus on him, instead.

The accused had refused to be handcuffed and had to be put on the ground to be cuffed, the court was told.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Dustin Camilleri, the witness explained that the Msida police station was just a 5-minute walk from the site of the Christmas market. That was also approximately the length of time that passed between the initial encounter with the police to their arrival at the scene.

When the officers arrived, the accused was shouting, crossing the road and constantly moving. “There was blood on the lower part of his face,” recalled the witness, indicating the area on her own jaw.

She refuted the suggestion that the accused was ever calm from his arrival at the police station to the time he arrived at hospital.

Camilleri asked how many officers had been involved in the arrest. “Two or three” replied the witness. “He was aggressive towards us,” she went on. “I tried to calm him down and take his details, but he didn’t give us complete details.”

The accused was seen to shake his head during parts of the officer’s testimony.

The lawyer suggested that Micallef had asked the police to act quickly as his assailants’ car was still in the area. “Yes, that's why I sent them [officers to look for it],” she replied. An eyewitness might have told the police the car’s registration number, she said, but said she could not exclude the possibility that the accused had given it to her.

The next witness was a police constable, stationed at the Msida police station, who gave more detail about the insults and threats allegedly directed at the police by the accused.

“He was insulting and threatening us, making all manner of threats. He told me that he would find me at home…He was saying ‘this is my private property,’ hazin ghalikhom, I will sue you.”

Micallef had told the police that there had been an argument and given the police a number plate, said the officer. “So, we went on a patrol of the area, but no vehicle with a matching number plate was found.”

Asked how he had reacted to the accused’s provocation, he said “I stayed quiet and filmed with my body cam, then he tried to do something to the sergeant and we had to use a little force. He was placed in the police car, and kicked one of the doors, damaging it. Then he was taken to hospital.”

“He was very agitated… violent he wasn’t initially. He didn’t touch us, but he was inviting us to beat him. ‘Come and hit me,’ he was telling us. There were also verbal threats.”

This witness, too, said Micallef had continued to struggle even after he was arrested. “While at the Christmas village, he was hurling all the insults imaginable, from A to Z. Then when he was arrested, he became aggressive, but at the hospital he was speaking to the doctor normally and didn’t give us much trouble, but he was handcuffed.”

The officer recalled the accused repeatedly insisting that the police immediately go after the youths. “He did not assist us, in fact he impeded us, preventing us from assisting him.”

Next to testify was another female police officer, who recounted being insulted by the accused while they were waiting for the ambulance.

“He was not cooperating,” she said. “While we were waiting for the ambulance, Jean Paul came up to me and repeatedly called me a midget, inviting me to hit him in the face.” The officer said she had remained calm and told the man to keep his distance. He had used the insult at least three times, she said. 

“He was insisting with us that, as he was building the Christmas village in the parking area, he had a permit and therefore the place was his. He took off his shirt, and was going up and down the stairs at Pilatus bank, then coming up to us and getting in our face.”

Camilleri asked the witness what she had done. “He was in my face, telling me ‘hit me, hit me, hit me!’ so she told him to move back, she said. The officer added that she, too, had moved away because she was getting angry too.

The case will continue in June.