News | Sunday, 26 April 2009
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Police silent about arrested constable

No statement issued, but story is leaked when MaltaToday makes queries

One of the men wearing a balaclava who was caught on video being arrested by the Administrative Law Enforcement unit last Saturday for illegal hunting during the spring season, is a police officer, this newspaper can confirm.
MaltaToday is informed by reliable police sources that there are other police officers with a hunting shotgun who are flouting the law and actively poaching during the closed season.
Police constable 555 Fabio Schembri was arraigned in court last Friday in the Gozo courts. The son of a police sergeant, whom police sources said is “very respected”, Schembri has been an officer in the corps for the past two years.
Police sources pointed out that Schembri was one of the hooded men who appeared in a video clip distributed by BirdLife to the press earlier this week. Schembri had been previously arraigned on charges of hunting breaches, but was acquitted.
It appears that BirdLife were not aware the man who was apprehended was in fact a police officer.
MaltaToday was informed of Schembri’s arrest last Saturday, with police sources expressing their dismay that other officers were flouting the ban on Spring hunting.
MaltaToday approached the police last Tuesday, but Commissioner of Police John Rizzo directed this newspaper to a CMRU spokesperson. Rizzo later said the police had “started investigating the matter immediately” but no answers were forthcoming from the CRMU.
The police issued no press release to inform the press that a police officer had been arraigned on illegal hunting charges.
But the arraignment of the officer was leaked to PBS, which on Friday evening carried a very brief news item noting that a police officer was arraigned on hunting offences, towards the end of its 8pm news bulletin.
The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) are at present monitoring illegal hunting activities. Fifty-two international birdwatchers from Denmark, UK, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Germany, and Belgium, together with nine local team leaders, are taking part in this year’s Spring Watch Camp. So far 96 different species of migratory birds including 11 raptor species have been observed, showing the importance of Malta as an important stop-over and resting spot on the central migratory flyway for wild birds.
Over a 1,000 shots are believed to have been recorded during BirdLife’s Spring Watch camp teams at several locations in Malta during the international bird monitoring camp. Spring Watch teams received five Marsh Harriers, one Scops Owl and one Montague’s Harrier, all protected birds, with shotgun injuries.
The Maltese government has taken no clear stand on Spring hunting and has stated that it will await the outcome of the European Court of Justice on the matter.
But it is highly unlikely that the court will concede to the government’s request for a permanent derogation from the Birds Directive, which bans hunting in Spring. With the upcoming European Parliament election, both major parties are conscious of the hunting lobby’s anger at the Spring ban and continue to harp on an optimistic conclusion in the court’s deliberations.

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