The Malta Independent 20 October 2017, Friday

Court clears BirdLife activist of all charges after 2014 incident when accompanying BBC presenter

Helena Grech Tuesday, 26 September 2017, 14:34 Last update: about 24 days ago

Lack of evidence against Birdlife activist Nimrod Mifsud, who accompanied BBC presenter Chris Packham while the pair were filming a documentary in Mizieb, has left the former cleared of all charges.

Mifsud, 32, was charged with trespassing on private property and exercising a pretended right after the prosecution was unable to present a shred of evidence showing that he was on private land or that he interfered with anybody’s rights.

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The 2014 footage of Packham and Mifsud being shouted at by a hunter to leave, with the latter chiding the pair for acting as though “they could just point their cameras anywhere” was shared and viewed by many. The hunters even told Packham to “go back to [his] country”.

This case is not to be confused with a more recent heated exchange between a hunter, Packham and BirdLife activists from 2016.

In 2014, Mifsud was charged with trespassing on land in Mizieb after hunters filed a complaint stating that the land in question is a reserve accorded to them by agreement with the government back in 1986. He was also charged with interfering with the right of  hunters Kenneth Sciberras and Robert Booker’s right to enjoy their property.

Mifsud and Packham were trying to get an interview with hunters during the spring hunting season in 2014. Packham and the rest of his British crew members had no charges filed against them in connection with the incident.

In his defence, Mifsud maintained that he never trespassed because he had stuck to the dirt path while in the area. This came out from his testimony.

CEO of the FKNK group, one of Malta’s largest hunting lobbies, Lino Farrugia, testified that the land had been exclusively reserved for use by hunters during the open season after an agreement was reached with former prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici on 11 April, 1986.

Farrugia went on to say that the land in question was effectively placed under the “administration” of the FKNK, which did not permit access to the reserve by unauthorized persons. He added that this arrangement ws further endorsed in October 1989 by deputy Prime Minister Guido de Marco.

Magistrate Charmaine Galea, presiding over the case, noted how the accused and the film crew had filmed a few hunters in action, which is when an argument broke out. In her considerations, Galea observed the lack of evidence for both charged.

“It does not emerge that the accused interfered with their possession or interfered with their belongings. It was in no way proved that the two persons had exclusive possession of the dirt track where the accused was passing. He was neither filming nor conducting any interviews. He was neither filming nor conducting any interviews. He was simply accompanying a foreign camera crew”.

Galea further observed that the accused’s presence with the film crew in no way proves that he was preventing the hunters from enjoying any rights.

She considered the fact that the prosecution failed to present a site plan of the area and a copy of the agreement covered in 1986 to support the claim of trespassing, meaning that this was in no way proven. She therefore liberated the accused of all charges.

Inspector Nikolai Sant prosecuted, while lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell represented the accused. Lawyer Kathleen Grima represented the FKNK as parte civile.

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