Court orders Police Commissioner to investigate officer for perjury

The Magistrate asked the Police Commissioner to investigate one of his officers for lying under oath about being injured in a traffic accident

A magistrate has asked the Police Commissioner to investigate one of his officers for lying under oath about being injured in a traffic accident he was involved in.

Police officer Mark Galea had been the injured party in the criminal case against Alan Debono, who was charged with reckless driving and negligently causing grievous bodily harm to Galea in 2006.

Galea had claimed to have skidded in his Toyota Corolla on a bend in the T’Alla u Ommu incline in Naxxar, at which point Debono’s Alfa Romeo crashed into him. The impact was minor, but Galea had insisted on filing a report at the Naxxar police station.

The officer had testified that he suffered a muscular neck injury leading to a permanent disability as a result of the incident. His car had suffered an alleged €1,060 worth of damages, he said.

But Debono’s version was very different to that given by the alleged victim. He denied hitting the car at all, saying he had braked in good time after Galea lost control of his car. Debono had waited for the driver of the spun vehicle to continue to drive, but instead the driver (Galea) had emerged from his vehicle, shouting that he had been hit by Debono’s car.

Debono told the driver to call the police and wardens, but Galea informed him that he was a police officer himself and that Debono should obey as he knew the law better than him. Galea then made a number of phonecalls, before ordering Debono to move the vehicle and go file a police report at Naxxar.

The accused said the resulting report did not reflect what he had told the police, which was that he had kept his distance and not hit Galea, but rather that he was unable to avoid the car and had collided with it.

An independent surveyor had not found any damage to either vehicle that could have been caused by the supposed collision.

In a strongly-worded judgment, magistrate Marse Anne Farrugia said the court had “no hesitation in saying the accused’s version was more credible.”

The prosecution had not contradicted the surveyor’s evidence which found no connection between the damaged parts of Galea’s vehicle. Debono’s Alfa had suffered no damage at all.

Neither could it be said that the car had been repaired in the 15 days between the accident and the survey, as the Alfa was found to still have its factory-fitted parts, as well as because the insurer had visibly inspected the car, at Debono’s behest, the day after the alleged collision and noted no damage.

Furthermore, a court-appointed medical expert found no evidence of permanent disability, a conclusion diametrically opposed to that of Galea’s own orthopedic consultant.

The court concluded that it was “abundantly clear” that Galea had not been telling the truth.

It noted that Galea had said that first a bumper to bumper form was going to be filled out and then for an unspecified reason he called the police who didn’t want to come to the scene and told him to make a report at the Naxxar police station.

“This goes against every principle of preserving the scene of a crime - and as a police officer, the court has no doubt that Galea knew this perfectly well.” It was even harder to explain given the alleged damages his car had suffered and the pain he claimed to have been in after the accident.

The court noted that Galea drove the car from the accident site to the Naxxar  police station without difficulty and then to the Mosta polyclinc and from there to hospital in Msida. “This is certainly not compatible with the actions of a person who had been injured in a road accident, such that years later, he still complained of the pain.”

Galea had been released from hospital on the same day with painkillers and a cervical collar as he was complaining of neck pain. Doctors had not found him to be seriously injured and he was not given an outpatient appointment for a follow up, observed the magistrate.

On the other hand, noted the court, the accused’s testimony is corroborated by a number of witnesses and medical experts.  

Debono was exonerated, but the court was not finished with the case.

It was the opinion of the court that Mark Galea had perjured himself when testifying, it said, registering a minute in the acts of the case in which it ordered that the Commissioner of Police be handed a copy of this sentence and, “after the necessary investigations, depending on their outcome, begin proceedings against this person for giving false testimony in this case and for committing every other crime that results to the COmmissioner from his investigation.”

Lawyer Giannella Demarco appeared for Debono. Superintendent Kevin J. Farrugia prosecuted.