Police took 27 hours to pass Repubblika’s request to magistrate

    Criminal Law: police should act “as soon as possible”

    According to Magistrate Joe Mifsud the police communicated verbally to him the report made by rule of law NGO Repubblika on April 17 at 18.00p.m. Repubblika had filed in their report on April 16 at 3.15 p.m. This means that although Article 540 of the Criminal Code obliges the police to take action on such reports as “soon as possible” it took the police 27 hours to inform the Magistrate Mifsud who was on call on April 17. On April 16 when the report was filed a different magistrate was on call.

    The statement by Magistrate Mifsud contrasts with what one can be led to conclude from the reply that the police gave to Newsbook.com.mt. In their reply, the police said that on April 17 the secretariat of the Acting Commissioner opens up for work at 7.30 a.m. The staff, we were told, immediately passed on to the Acting Commissioner Repubblika’s reports “were processed immediately”.  Further down the police statement says that the Acting Commissioner “exercised his rights on April 17.”

    The use of the words “immedjatament’ and ‘minnufih’ stress ‘immediacy’ not a late action.

    Police answers contrast with Repubblika’s

    The answer given to Newsbook.com.mt by the Police is also in contrast with the detailed statement this newsroom received from Repubblika.

    According to the answer of the Police, Repubblika presented their reports “on April 16 late in the afternoon.”

    Repubblika says that they presented their two reports at the Police Headquarters at 3.15 p.m.

    The Police said that the envelopes were sealed thus giving the impression that they did not know what the contents were all about. They added that there was no one in the secretariat of the Acting Commissioner at that time.

    Repubblika informed this newsroom that when their representative went to the Police Headquarters he was informed that probably there was no one still working at that time. A policeman then phoned the office and subsequently informed the Repubblika representative that there was someone in the office and that the two reports would be passed on to that person ‘in a few minutes”.

    Repubblika also notes that at 4.49pm they released the two reports as part of a media statement, thus the police should have known the seriousness of the contents of the reports presented to them.

    Legal experts who spoke to Newsbook.com.mt said that they do not remember a case where a report (denunzja) of such grave import was presented to the police and they took such a long time to act on it.

    Full statement by the Police

     “Kindly be advised that the police reports by Repubblika were deposited at the Police General Headquarters on the 16th April 2020 in the late afternoon, in a sealed envelope and addressed to the Acting Commissioner, when the secretariat of the Acting Commissioner had already closed. The secretariat opens at 7.30am. Thus, on the 17th April, as soon as the secretariat opened, the police reports were passed on to the Acting Commissioner and were processed immediately. The law empowers the Acting Commissioner as well as the NGO Repubblika, in this case, to request an immediate opening of an in genere inquiry to the Sitting Magistrate. The Acting Commissioner immediately exercised this right on the 17th April. The police force will be analysing the process verbal as compiled by the Magistrate responsible for the Inquiry”.

    Full statement by Repubblika committee member:

    “Given the urgency of the matter I, as a member of Repubblika’s executive committee, went personally to the Police Headquarters in Floriana on Thursday 16th April at 3:15pm to deliver the 2 reports requesting an investigation into the actions of Prime Minister Robert Abela and the P52 crew with regards to the death of migrants at sea over the Easter weekend.

    Upon entering the police HQ I was told by the guard that since the envelope was addressed to the Commissioner of Police and was being delivered by hand it had to be given immediately to a person from the Office of the Commissioner of Police. Although unsure, the guard said that he thought everyone in the Commissioner’s office had left for the day but upon my insistence, since the matter was important, the guard proceeded to check whether everyone from the office had indeed left. He phoned and confirmed that a person, if not mistaken he mentioned “segretarja”, from the office was still present and would come to collect the 2 envelopes and that all was fine, therefore.

    I asked whether I should wait since the document was important. The guard told me not to worry (“serraħ rasek”) and assured me that she (the secretary) would be handed the envelope in a few minutes. I then left reassured. The whole encounter took around 6 minutes.

    Little more than an hour later at 4.49 pm, Repubblika then proceeded to release a public statement that was covered by most media so the fact that the report was submitted to the Commissioner was a clearly known fact.”