Defence lawyers request access to police files related to 2012 football violence case

The request was made during the compilation of evidence against eight Serbian football supporters, who, together with two men from Greece and Bulgaria, are accused of having violently resisted arrest and injuring a police officer after they invaded the pitch during a 2012 match in Paola

The compilation of evidence relating to an ugly incident of football-related violence continued this afternoon, with the lawyers representing a group of Serbian football fans who claim to have been beaten up by police officers requesting access to the file relating to the police’s internal investigation.

The request was made during the compilation of evidence against eight Serbian football supporters, who, together with two men from Greece and Bulgaria, are accused of having violently resisted arrest and injuring a police officer after they invaded the pitch during a Champions League match between Valletta FC and Partizan Belgrade in July 2012 at the Hibs Stadium in Paola.

The men are denying all charges.

Today the former police commissioner John Rizzo testified that he had ordered an investigation into the alleged beatings but had not been involved in it.  However, in doing so, Rizzo contradicted the version of events previously given by Superintendent Carmel Bartolo who had informed the court from the witness stand that he was unable to testify on the investigation as Rizzo had personally conducted it.

Under cross-examination by defence lawyers Giannella de Marco and Gianluca Caruana Curran, Rizzo admitted that he could not recall the report in any detail.

Rizzo repeated that to the best of his knowledge, he had only ordered the investigation after being told of the claims. “We can easily establish this by asking for the police file to be exhibited in court,” added the ex-commissioner. He recalled noting that the conclusions reached by the report was that nothing illegal had been observed.

But de Marco claimed that the report had been compiled lacked even an interview with the alleged victims, who are claiming that officers had sprayed them with pepper spray whilst they were handcuffed, inside the police van. De Marco reminded the court that a court expert had testified that the men had suffered injuries inflicted by kicks and truncheons, including blows to the face.

As the two versions heard by the court were in direct conflict with each other, the lawyer requested that she be allowed to view the police file to ascertain what the conclusion was. Inspector Jurgen Vella, prosecuting, said he had no objection to the request but would have to refer the matter to his superiors as per procedure.

This led to a frank exchange of views between the defence and prosecution, after deMarco angrily accused the police of trying to cover up their misdeeds. “You should be on this side asking for action to be taken. I am disgusted by your attitude,” said the criminal lawyer, sparking an equally angry reaction by the prosecution, who described the accusation as unacceptable.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit brought the court to order and gave the prosecution three days to submit an official reply to the defence’s request.

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