Former police chief says force needs ‘new direction’

Former Police Commissioner Peter Paul Zammit, says police force needs new direction after defending man accused of police assault

Peter Paul Zammit: I was not removed, I left
Peter Paul Zammit: I was not removed, I left

The Police Force needs a new direction, according to the former Police Commissioner who this week decided to defend a man in court on charges he himself was accused of trying to suppress.

Peter Paul Zammit, who was police chief for one year between 2013 and 2014, has also stepped down from his role as security coordinator for the upcoming meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (CHOGM).

A defiant Zammit insisted that that he had stepped down voluntarily from his role as police chief: “I wasn’t removed, but I left. I went there to lead but, for different reasons, the political masters were not in agreement with my proposals.”

Contacted by MaltaToday, Zammit partly confirmed that his decision to step down from the CHOGM post was to join the defence team of Josmar Agius, accused of assault of police at the Zabbar police station when Zammit was police chief.

Zammit emphasised that it hadn’t been the sole reason as he had completed his job as security coordinator. “Security matters are ultimately handled by the Commissioner for Police. I was the coordinator… the one who set the wheels in motion thanks to my legal and practical experience,” Zammit said.

A legal procurator by profession, Zammit pointed to comments that compared him to a 'best man leaving before a wedding': “I am not the best man but merely a person brought in for advice. I coordinated the security plan, which is now awaiting the Prime Minister’s approval… I have nothing left to coordinate.”

As security matters are handled by the Commissioner for Police, questions arose as to whether Zammit’s role had been created specifically for him following his ‘dismissal’ from the force. “I was needed because you had a new head of the police force who stayed on for a short term,” Zammit replied, referring to the appointment of Ray Zammit as acting police commissioner. Ray Zammit was himself asked to resign the post following an inquiry into former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia's security driver Paul Sheehan.

Peter Paul Zammit went on to explain that the level of security had changed drastically since the CHOGM that was held in Malta in 2005. 

Earlier this year, Parliament was told that during his tenure as police commissioner, Peter Paul Zammit had ordered that no charges be pressed against Josmar Agius in relation to the police assault incident. 

Back in May, an inquiry report tabled in parliament had found that Zammit had personally intervened to drop charges against his former client. Agius had been a client of Zammit’s, who practised as a legal procurator before joining the police force.

Zammit himself had ordered the inquiry.

His decision to defend Agius in court has raised eyebrows, but Zammit rubbished any emerging criticism by stating that he was “after the truth”.

“The only difference between myself and politicians who are also lawyers is that I never was of disservice to my clients. He [Agius] came to me for my advice; I did my job as Police Commissioner and stopped the charges. How could I let it go on knowing that police officers were accusing someone unjustly?”

The court refused to allow Zammit to represent himself as an interested party in the proceedings so he has now informed a court that he would be joining the defence team.

“I want the truth to out and being part of the defence team ensures that. The shortcomings (by the police) in this case must come to an end… the Police Force needs new direction and perhaps I had been too good.”

Zammit reiterated that it had been his duty, as former police chief, to see that a person is not charged with an offence that was “manifestly unfounded”.