The Malta Independent 22 February 2018, Thursday

Paqpaqli accident: None of witnesses able to say who presided board of organisers

Wednesday, 14 February 2018, 13:30 Last update: about 8 days ago

Collective amnesia seems to have gripped the organisers of the ill-fated 2015 Paqpaqli ghall-istrina event, which saw a supercar plough into a crowd of bystanders.

The most senior police officer involved in its planning was today unable to explain why he had charged 13 people despite saying that he saw nothing wrong on the day.

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja continued to hear witnesses in the compilation of evidence against Paul Bailey, Tonio Darmanin, Tonio Cini, Agostino Degiorgio, Jonathan Tonna, Kevin Perry, Melvin Haber, Ian Keith Cilia Pisani, Jonathan Bruno, Julian Mannara, Christopher Sultana, David Bugeja and Brian Gatt, who are facing possible criminal liability for the 2015 supercar crash at the Paqpaqli ghall-Istrina event which injured 23.

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The 13 stand accused of involuntarily causing grievous bodily harm, as well damage to various motor vehicles, through imprudence, carelessness and non-observance of regulations.

Five witnesses from the Board of Administrators of the Malta Community Chest Fund at the time testified in succession. None of the witnesses could say who presided the board of organisers, what its involvement was in the event or give any useful information to the court, which led to near-comical cross-examinations with witness after witness unable to answer even basic questions, when asked by lawyer Giannella Demarco.

Police "also a stakeholder"

Police inspector Silvio Magro took the witness stand afterwards, exhibiting evidence showing that he was abroad during the last meeting between the event’s organisers and that another inspector had been sent in his stead. The police were only required for crowd control, he said.

Cross-examining, lawyer Stefano Filletti asked about a risk assessment he had exhibited. It had been drawn up by the Paqpaqli committee the year before, Magri replied, maintaining that he did not know about the contents of the assessment.

Filetti pressed him on why he presented it. “To show that the police were only there for crowd control,” he replied. The document was never discussed with him, he said. The event risk manager had allocated the police’s role, explained the inspector.

Asked whether the document he presented had been issued by the core committee, Magri replied: “I don’t know what the core committee is.”

“It's a term that has been used extensively in these proceedings, but you don’t know what it means?” asked an exasperated Filletti.

The crowd control arrangements had been the same as those used in previous events, retorted Magro. This information had been given to him verbally by Assistant Commissioner Sandro Zarb.

“Your job was therefore crowd control,” Filletti summarised, “But the role of the police is regulated by the Criminal Code, not by your superiors... other things which fall under your responsibility at law - what did you do about them?” The question was not understood.

Filletti clarified, saying the police’s role arose out of the Criminal code and the Police Act. “This goes beyond mere crowd control. Did you do anything beyond crowd control on the day?”

“If there had been anything wrong on the day I would have intervened,” replied the inspector.

“You are prosecuting these people for negligence. You were there. Did anything bother you on the day?”

“I’m not a health and safety officer... from the criminal aspect there was nothing wrong,” said Magro.

“These charges are purely criminal, emerging from the criminal code, so if on the day of the incident you did not see any preventable crime, what crime are you seeing now?”

“On that day, I did not see anything wrong. I would have taken steps if I did...”

“Did you investigate any police officers for shortcomings?” asked Filletti.

“If I saw anything on the day, I would have acted. I am a person who takes steps,” Magro insisted.

Filletti asked why the inspector had charged 13 people on the strength of an irrelevant document, when he himself had been a stakeholder in the event and had done nothing to prevent the incident. The police inspector gave a noncommittal reply.

The case continues tomorrow.

Police inspectors Josric Mifsud, Silvio Magro and Hubert Cini are prosecuting. Paul Bailey is being represented by lawyer Giannella de Marco, while lawyer Joe Giglio is Tonio Darmanin’s legal counsel. Brian Gatt and Julian Manara are being represented by lawyer Stefano Filletti in the court proceedings. Lawyers Roberto Montalto, Michael Grech, Franco Debono sand Amadeus Cachia are appearing as parte civile for the victims.

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