Updated | Police won’t investigate BirdLife criminal complaint on spring hunting licences

Police say legal notice on hunting season signed by environment ministry makes hunting licences valid

Police have terminated their criminal investigation into the legality of Spring hunting licences
Police have terminated their criminal investigation into the legality of Spring hunting licences

Updated at 5:15 pm with BirdLife reaction

The Police have said they will not be taking further steps after analysing a criminal complaint filed by BirdLife over the alleged illegality of spring hunting licences.

The announcement comes after the hunting federation, FKNK, asked for a meeting with the police to rebut the criminal complaint filed yesterday by BirdLife Malta, in which it claims that the spring hunting licences issued this year were illegal.

The FKNK is insisting the special Spring hunting licences, issued on the basis of a legal notice, were all in order and BirdLife’s complaint was “baseless”.

Central to the issue is the legality of the legal notice that makes spring hunting possible, which had been issued jointly by the Environment Minister and the Gozo Minister. The law states that only the Environment Minister is empowered to issue such regulations.

The dual-ministry issuing of the legal notice had come as a result of an anomalous situation arising from a Cabinet reshuffle earlier this year, because while the law empowers the environment minister to sign off on a derogation for spring hunting, the hunting enforcement unit was placed under the remit of the Gozo ministry.

In a brief statement issued this afternoon, the Police’s Community and Media Relations Unit announced that with reference to the criminal complaint filed by the conservationist organisation yesterday, which BirdLife had made public by means of a press statement, “after an in-depth analysis of the content of the aforementioned criminal complaint and after taking into account all the circumstances, [the police] have reached the conclusion that there is no reason to take any further steps in the circumstances.”

BirdLife seeking best way forward in addressing issue at law courts 

In its reaction, to the police decision, BirdLife said it will be seeking advice on the best way forward to addressing the issue at the Law Courts. 

“BirdLife Malta reiterates its position that no spinning of facts or intimidation will stop it from doing what is within its legal rights as part of civil society and that its only interest is the protection of the natural environment for the benefit of the common good,” the reaction read. 

In its statement, BirdLife also attached the letter sent by the acting police commissioner, in which he explained how it is not his responsibility to establish whether the hunting licences have been issued by the Gozo Ministry beyond its power or authority.

“He continues by saying that if he had to do so, this would be over and above his powers, since the duty of the police is to enforce laws enacted by the competent authorities,” BirdLife said. 

Whilst stopping short of saying BirdLife Malta should take this issue to Court, the Acting Police Commissioner concludes by suggesting that the state has ad hoc institutions which are legally empowered to verify the validity of laws.