Judge disallows government appeal request in case over Spring hunting season

Court says an appeal at this stage would only serve to draw out the hearing of the case

BirdLife Malta is taking the government to court over the turtle dove hunting season
BirdLife Malta is taking the government to court over the turtle dove hunting season

The judge hearing BirdLife Malta’s case against the government over the opening of Malta’s Spring hunting season has turned down the Ministry for Environment, Energy and Enterprise’s request to file an appeal to the court’s rejection of the ministry’s preliminary pleas.

In a decree handed down yesterday in BirdLife's case against the Gozo and Environment Ministries and the ERA, the First Hall of the Civil Court, presided by Mr. Justice Mark Simiana, did not uphold the ministry’s request. “As the court observes that an appeal at this stage will only serve to draw out the hearing of the case, and as the defendants will not be suffering any prejudice if they were to appeal after final judgement, should they choose to, rejects the request and orders the case to continue.”

The case was adjourned to February for BirdLife Malta’s evidence.

The NGO had originally filed a warrant of prohibitory injunction asking the court to prevent the government from opening the Spring hunting season for turtle dove in 2022. The request for the warrant was rejected. 

BirdLife Malta then filed a case on the merits, asking the court to declare the 2022 season illegal on the basis that turtledove are a vulnerable species. It was also requested to stop the government from opening further Spring hunting seasons until the depleted turtle dove population recovered and was no longer vulnerable to extinction.

The following year, BirdLife Malta had once again filed a request for a prohibitory injunction against the opening of the hunting season in 2023. That request was also rejected.

In the case on the merits, the State Advocate had filed a number of preliminary pleas that would have stopped the case in its tracks, all of which were rejected by the presiding judge, Robert Mangion.

The case was subsequently assigned to Mr. Justice Mark Simiana, after a redistribution of judicial caseloads.

The State Advocate had requested permission to appeal Mr. Justice Mangion’s decision, which resulted in yesterday’s decree.

It’s a long road, but we’re moving forward - BirdLife CEO

Contacted for his reaction to the ruling, BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said “we are pleased that the court has understood our arguments and granted us, as an NGO, the right to fight on behalf of nature, in this case the turtle doves”.

“We are also pleased to note that the court has agreed that, in such cases it is not only the civil servants of departments that can be found to have acted illegally but the Ministers themselves.”

“But more importantly, the court agreed with us that since the defendants, the government through State Advocate, still have the right and possibility to appeal this preliminary ruling, it should not delay further and continue with the hearing of the case on its merits. This is a long road but we are definitely moving forward.”

Lawyers Martin Farrugia and Claire Bonello are representing BirdLife Malta in the proceedings.