Hunter, stripped of licence in 2015, also guilty of lying to court, magistrate rules

The hunter, who had lost his license after being found guilty of illegally keeping protected bird specimens, has now been convicted of giving false evidence

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

A man who was permanently stripped of his hunting licence after he had been found guilty of illegally keeping specimens of protected bird species has been punished further after also being convicted of giving false evidence during his trial.

Nathaniel Agius, of Sannat, Gozo, had been convicted in 2015 of possessing specimens of Marsh Sandpipers and Spotted Crakes, both protected species.

The court of Magistrates in Gozo had heard how Agius had initially told the authorities that the birds were his, saying he had been unaware that the Spotted Crake was a protected bird and that the Marsh Sandpiper had been caught by his dog while out hunting.

But whilst testifying, he had told the court that the birds were old specimens belonging to his grandparents and that he had lied about catching them to protect his grandmother. “I didn’t want my grandma to get into any trouble. She never has and she’s not going to start at eighty!” he had said.

But the court of Magistrates in Gozo, presided by magistrate Joe Mifsud had not been convinced that the birds were that old. Noting that the man had given a detailed account of how he had caught the birds to officers at the time of his arrest, the court had been clear: “The court did not believe …the accused when he said the birds were his grandfather’s and today he wants to act the Knight to avoid worrying his grandmother and avoid her having to testify in court. At the time of arrest he had told the police the birds were his.” In addition to an €8,000 fine and the revocation of his licence, Magistrate Mifsud noted that he had given false testimony and ordered a transcript of his deposition and that of the prosecuting officers be sent to the commissioner of police for further action, leading to the charges in the case decided today.

Although it was initially considered, the court eventually opted not to summon the grandmother to the stand.

In a sentence handed down today, the Gozo Court of Appeal, presided by magistrate Joanne Vella Cuschieri observed that before magistrate Mifsud, the man had said that it had been the police’s advice that he not mention his grandmother and before the Court of Appeal he had claimed that his lawyer had suggested it to him.

“In the circumstances, when the accused repeatedly told the police, both orally and in writing, and after consulting a lawyer, that the birds were his and that he had killed the Spotted Crake himself whilst the Marsh Sandpiper had died in captivity, the first court was fully entitled to accept as truth what he had said to the police and reject as untrue that which he had testified before the first court.”

“This apart from the fact that it is very strange that at first the accused was ready to sacrifice himself to cover for his grandmother but then when taken to court some months later, this altruistic attitude towards his 80-year-old grandmother vanished and he began to point his finger at her.”

In its considerations on punishment, the court took into consideration the nature of the crime with which the accused was being charged and that it had not been provided with a copy of his criminal record.

The accused ought to be given the opportunity to change his life’s course and start taking criminal law and its consequences seriously before it is too late, said the magistrate.

Agius was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for four years and was placed under a 10-year general interdiction.

Inspector Bernard Charles Spiteri prosecuted.