Update 2 | Three months’ jail for poacher facing attempted murder charge

Hunting lobby KSU says case highlights ambiguity in gun licensing system where person with criminal record involving aggression of a police officer and a pending case of attempted murder is allowed a gun license • Hunter who shot lapwing is sentenced to three months' jail for breaching bail and relapsing, but is out on bail pending an appeal

Man charged with shooting protected bird

The court has jailed hunter Shaun Demicoli, 37 of Birzebbuga, for breaching bail conditions and relapsing, after he was arrested by police for shooting a protected bird.

Demicoli is facing a charge of the attempted murder of a 31-year-old Tunisian national, Riyadh Mrad who was found unconscious on Triq il-Bajja s-Sabija, Birzebbuga, in March 2014, after suffering of serious injuries.

Demicoli admitted to the charges brought against him, and was sentenced to three months' imprisonment and a €100 fine for the breach of bail conditions. The court also suspended his hunting licence and confiscated his shotgun.

Demicoli is out on bail pending an appeal, but his bail conditions will be fixed in a court sitting on Friday.

The shot bird, a lapwing, is a Schedule II protected bird during the spring season. Demicoli's lawyer explained that his client was not aware that the bird could not be hunted.

The incident is the second one recorded since the start of a controversial spring hunting season on Tuesday, after Malta voted to retain spring hunting by a knife's edge margin of less than 1%. However, an ornithologist who spoke to MaltaToday said that it was a very uncommon sight for a lapwing to be on the Maltese islands during spring. "The lapwing is a visitor to these islands during the winter."

In submissions on punishment, Inspector Jurgen Vella said that although he had collaborated with the police during their investigation, the punishment should reflect the gravity of the case in view of the fact that this as a protected speices during the hunting season which is only open for turtle doves and quail.

Demicoli was also accused of breaching bail conditions and of relapsing. The man was arraigned before Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit by prosecuting inspectors Jurgen Vella and Colin Sheldon.

In 2013, Demicoli was also jailed for seven months for punching an officer in his face after giving him a parking ticket for leaving his car in a bay for disabled passengers. Demicoli punched a police constable twice for writing him a parking ticket, then violently resisted arrest at the poice station in Birzebbugia.

Hunters' lobby FKNK said on Facebook that Demicoli was not a member of the FKNK. "We encourage the association Demicoli is a member of to suspend him and if found guilty by the court, cancel his membership. Criminals should have no place amongst legal hunters on our islands," Daniel Xriha said.

Kaccaturi San Ubertu (KSU) said the incident "exemplifies ignorance on the part of the perpetrator being unaware that spring hunting is only practiced on turtle dove and quail."

KSU's Mark Mifsud Bonnici added that it also highlighted an ambiguity in Malta's gun licensing system where a person with a criminal record involving aggression of a police officer and a pending case of attempted murder is allowed a gun license.

"KSU informs that  this person is not one of its members and could never be eligible for membership in view of his character. It is inconceivable that the perception of hunting is tarnished by those who should not be eligible for a gun license and are totally ignorant of hunting laws. KSU call on the authorities to rescind gun and hunting licenses held by any such persons.

"KSU practices a policy of zero tolerance and vets all its members prior to acceptance. We solicit all other hunting organizations to adopt such principles in order to weed  the undesirable element in hunting."

On Wednesday, Stefan Micallef, 43 of Naxxar, pleaded guilty to shooting a protected bird, a cuckoo, claiming he shot it by mistake, thinking it was a turtle dove - one of the only two huntable species during the spring. The other is quail.

He was fined the maximum €2,500, had his shotgun confiscated, and his hunting license suspended for three-and-a-half years. He was also suspended from hunting federation FKNK with immediate effect.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Office of the Prime Minister said that if there were “flagrant illegalities the hunting season will be stopped”.

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