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NEWS | Wednesday, 14 November 2007

‘Brute force’ victim demands €30,000 in compensation… from MaltaToday

Five months ago, MaltaToday Midweek was instrumental in revealing the shocking use of brute force of a police sergeant on a French national.
Now, Catherine Sophie Pernod Sprangers, the 58-year-old French woman who was kicked unconscious in her car by the police sergeant in May, is demanding that MaltaToday pay her €30,000 in compensation for publicising a home video of the incident.
In a letter to the editor of this newspaper, Sprangers also claims to have been the victim of verbal abuse directed at her by the magistrate and lawyers in the case against David Sant, the 46-year-old police sergeant accused of assaulting her during an altercation in Paceville on 10 May.
“In the Magistrates’ Court I even experienced being insulted and threatened both by the other party’s solicitor and the Magistrate,” Sprangers wrote, in a letter which goes on to request “€30,000 euros as compensation on a friendly basis”, before threatening to take the case to the European Courts of Human Rights in Strasbourg if no answer is forthcoming within a week.
The Magistrate presiding over the case was Silvio Meli, and Sant’s lawyers were Jason Azzopardi and Kris Busietta.
The case goes back to Wednesday 6 June, when MaltaToday Midweek carried a front-page story featuring images lifted from an amateur video of the incident in which Ms Sprangers was knocked unconscious by Sergeant Sant.
The footage in question shows an argument between Sprangers, who was at the wheel of her private vehicle, and the police sergeant, who had positioned himself in a way that prevented her from shutting the car door. After an angry exchange, Sant is seen striking Sprangers in the chest and face with his knee, knocking her unconscious for several minutes. A copy of the video was also uploaded onto the newspaper’s website,, from where it promptly found its way onto YouTube.
David Sant was initially sentenced to four months’ imprisonment by Magistrate Silvio Meli. The verdict was upheld on appeal by Chief Justice Vincent Degaetano, who nonetheless suspended the sentence in view of Sant’s otherwise impeccable 20-year record with the Force. Significantly, the Chief Justice also highlighted the role of MaltaToday in bringing the incident to light.
“If it weren’t for the newspaper MaltaToday, this crime would not have surfaced,” Chief Justice DeGaetano pointed out in his 14-page ruling. “This Court believes that if such crimes, committed by police officers, are not treated with the seriousness and severity that they warrant, then society – especially a small society like ours, in which everyone knows everyone else – could easily slide into regression, so that even more serious aberrations may end up as the rule rather than the exception, thereby escaping punishment.”
This week, however, Sprangers wrote an informal letter to the editor of MaltaToday Midweek, claiming to be owed compensation for damages arising from the incident.
“I was an innocent party in the incident… although I decided not to press charges, the publication in your paper of photos, putting the video on the internet, terming me an elderly lady while I am just over 50 as well as the articles, have caused much distress to me.”
Sprangers also accuses the newspaper of not complying with basic journalistic ethics. “You published details which are not only half truths, but actual lies with even getting in touch to find out the real truth.”
Sprangers did not specify what these “lies” were, but the cause of offence seems to have been the mistake concerning her age. The original story estimated Sprangers to be “around 70 years old”. In actual fact, she is 58.
For the record, MaltaToday tried to identify and contact Ms Sprangers through the French embassy before publication of the article, but to no avail. This fact was mentioned in the original article of June 6.

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