Wardija man gets short shrift from court over frivolous claim that police abducted his girlfriend

Magistrate dismisses man’s claim police abducted his girlfriend in what appears to be a case of a woman walking out of a relationship

The magistrate dismissed the man's claim, ruling that his actions wasted everyone's precious time
The magistrate dismissed the man's claim, ruling that his actions wasted everyone's precious time

A court has dismissed a habeas corpus action filed by a man who claimed his Eastern European girlfriend had been “abducted” from his home by the police. 

The claim was made on Friday by Massimo Galea from Wardija in a bizarre court sitting during which police testified that the woman was never been under arrest. 

Indeed, it would appear the woman simply walked out on Galea, leaving him oblivious as to her whereabouts. 

Galea filed an application for habeas corpus - a procedure, available to persons under arrest, which requires the duty magistrate to urgently examine the legality of their arrest. Galea was not a person under arrest and filed the procedure on behalf of his ‘girlfriend’. 

The only snag, as the police and prison officials subsequently explained to the court presided by Magistrate Abigail Critien, was that the woman was not in custody, nor had she ever been detained. 

Lawyer Franklin Calleja, representing the Court administration, testified that the woman identified by Galea was not in court custody. Calleja added the Criminal Code made it clear that the habeas corpus remedy is only available to persons under arrest, and not to family members or romantic partners. 

Police Inspector Joseph Busuttil also submitted that Galea, who was represented by lawyer Jason Grima, had no right of audience in the sitting, because he was not the person under arrest. 

Grima told the court the woman in question was his client’s partner. “The police went to their home, arrested her and took her away. In 2023, if my wife is arrested, don’t I have a right to know where she is?” asked the lawyer. 

The court asked what the lawyer wished to reply to the argument posited by Inspector Busuttil, namely that such an application can only be filed by the person being allegedly illegally detained. 

“We are here to investigate the legality of the arrest. The investigation doesn’t stop here,” submitted the lawyer. “The Inspector says she isn’t in prison, and that she’s not in the lock up, so the inspector needs to tell him where his girlfriend is.” 

The magistrate said such a procedure is not a habeas corpus. “This court is being asked to examine whether the person is arrested legally or not, not to file a missing person’s report.” 

Asked by the court, lawyer Nicholas Mifsud, representing the Corradino Correctional Facility, declared that the woman was not being detained at the facility. 

Inspector Busuttil then called in the police sergeant in charge of the court lockup, who testified that nobody had been detained under arrest there by Inspector Busuttil this week. “The latest one was in October, and that last person was detained on immigration grounds. Nowhere in our records does the woman’s name appear.”

‘I am not here to satisfy your curiosity’ 

And it was here that the, already odd, sitting took a turn for the downright weird. 

Inspector Busuttil declared to the court that the woman in question was not missing, “because I know where she is.” But when Grima requested he state her whereabouts, the police inspector curtly refused. “I am not here to satisfy your curiosity,” he replied. 

The court, too, pointed out to the complainant that this was not the right way to try and obtain this information. “If she is not in the lockup and not in prison, then she is not arrested.” 

When the inspector told the court that there was no evidence to show that the woman was somehow involved with the man, Magistrate Critien stopped him, stressing that her task was not to examine relationships, but to assess the legality of an arrest. 

The magistrate, by now quite flabbergasted, remarked that she had never been presented with a habeas corpus case for a person who was not under arrest. 

“This is a case that should never even start,” said the inspector.  

Inspector Helenio Galea, who is in charge of admissions and records at the Corradino Correctional Facility took the witness stand next. 

“No person by that name has ever been detained at CCF, at least up until 20 minutes ago when I last checked. She never was in prison.” 

“This is getting ridiculous,” the magistrate remarked at that point. 

But the sitting continued down its bizarre path with Grima then telling the court that he did not doubt that the woman was not in prison or the court lockup. “So why did you institute these proceedings?” asked the magistrate. 

Grima explained that the woman had been taken away from his client’s house by police officers who had arrived in three squad cars. “She isn’t in prison or in the lockup but she was definitely taken away by the police,” he said. 

Grima asked whether the woman was being detained at a police station. 

“She is not in police custody,” replied the inspector. “She is running free, wherever she wants to be. I am not going to tell you where she is.” 

The court did not allow further questions from the defence.

‘We don’t even have a corpus’ 

Grima then argued that the woman had been arrested without a warrant, only for the court to point out that he was not representing her, but Galea. “On behalf of his girlfriend,” corrected the lawyer.  

“She isn’t his girlfriend,” the inspector shot back. “Who told you she isn’t my girlfriend?” asked Galea, speaking for the first time. 

“This is an action for habeas corpus and we don’t even have a corpus!” rued the magistrate, before asking the inspector directly whether the woman was in a police station. She was not, he replied. “And at no time was she arrested.” 

Grima asked the court to allow the man and the inspector to testify, insisting that this claim was untrue. The request was granted, but the magistrate made it clear that she would not allow any questions about the woman’s whereabouts. 

“Did you and your team go to Wardija for this lady?” asked Grima. “Yes,” replied the inspector.  

“Did you take her away?” 

“No, she came with us voluntarily.”  

Grima asked the police inspector what he had said to her that made her leave with the police, but he refused to answer. “It is irrelevant to this case,” he said. 

The court agreed on this point.  

The man who had filed the habeas corpus, Massimo Galea, took the stand. He described his relationship with the woman in question. “We have been together for four months. I am a pilot. She moved in with me… We had just arrived in Sicily when she received a phone call from the inspector, telling her to attend the police station on Friday at noon.” 

“On the 28th we saw the police outside the gate. I approached the inspector but he said ‘I don’t want to speak to you, I want to talk to [the woman]’.” 

Galea claimed that the inspector had warned him that he had four minutes to bring her out of the house or the police would be going in. When the woman emerged, “two officers picked her up by the armpits and dragged her into a car,” he said. 

Around six police officers took part in the incident, during which, he said, he had not been shown any warrants. 

He added that a number of other lawyers had not taken up his case, saying this was because the inspector was refusing to cooperate. 

“I have a feeling… I would like her to come here and testify about whether she was taken,” Galea said. “Maybe she was kidnapped.”

‘This isn’t Disneyland’ 

He told the court that he had tried to call the woman up but her phone was off. Her family were concerned, he said. “She’s been missing for days. Maybe she should come here to testify herself,” Galea suggested. 

The court gave short shrift to that suggestion, however. “This isn’t Disneyland, sir. We are here to establish the legality of her arrest. I can hypothesise and fantasise and surmise as to what might have happened, but that is not the point of these proceedings.” 

Galea added that the other police cars had blocked the road to prevent him from following the car transporting the woman.  

Inspector Busuttil asked the man to say who had answered the woman’s phone when he had called her while the couple had been in Sicily. Galea said that he had. 

Neither had Galea received any phone calls from the woman’s parents and cousins, he admitted, leading the court to confront him with his previous assertion that the family had expressed concern. “I will get their numbers…” Galea began but was cut short by the magistrate, who pointed out that this meant that he had only assumed this to be the case. 

“If she comes here - and I don’t even have to be here - , and says that she doesn’t want to be with me, I will back off, but I can’t live not knowing what happened to her. That would kill me,” Galea told the court, before asking the inspector why the woman had been taken. 

In a decree handed down later in the evening, the court dismissed the application, stressing the fact that habeas corpus was a remedy only available to a person detained, and which could not be filed by third parties in that person’s name.  

Although Galea technically had no standing in the case, the court had nonetheless allowed him to have his say, said the magistrate. “Whilst deploring the applicant’s actions, which have wasted everybody’s precious time by filing proceedings of an urgent nature when there wasn’t even an arrest or detention, the court finds this behaviour to show contempt towards its authority, especially in view of the waste of time and public resources in proceedings which should never have been filed, because they are entirely null, irregular and abusive.”