The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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TMID Editorial: The elusive Police Commissioner

Monday, 24 June 2024, 10:12 Last update: about 23 days ago

Malta’s Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa may have gotten off on the right foot when he was first appointed in June 2020, but now – with Sunday being four years to the day since he was appointed, the lustre of Lawrence Cutajar’s successor has been lost.

The Police Commissioner has been on the receiving end of mounting criticism in the last few months, with that criticism intensifying in the last few weeks as the findings of the Vitals magisterial inquiry resulted in people being charged in court.

This after it was confirmed in court that the police did not actually carry out any of their own investigations into the hospitals deal, choosing instead to rely solely on magistrate Gabriella Vella’s inquiry, an inquiry which was started precisely because the country’s authorities – prior to Gafa’s appointment – refused to investigate the matter themselves.

This decision is highly unusual: in many criminal cases – including major ones such as homicides – the police carry out their own investigations in parallel to those of the magistrate, who would be running an inquiry into the case as well.

Even more unusual is the police and the Attorney General’s decision to not carry out any form of investigations on the magistrate’s findings when her inquiry was concluded on 25 April. 

The police and the Attorney General chose to not even question any of the people they ultimately charged in connection with the hospitals deal – a matter which has already been brought up by the veritable army of defence lawyers in what is no doubt one of the highest profile court cases in the country’s post-independence history. 

We can expect the defence to continue to bring this point up, and maybe even contest it as a human rights breach.  That will then be a matter for the courts to decide, but it will no doubt be a matter which will detract from the actual evidence and merits of the case.

The court has heard from the police that inspectors did not even look through the voluminous 78 boxes of evidence that magistrate Vella amassed over the course of her four-and-a-half-year inquiry into this case before filing charges, and relied on the magistrate’s 1,200-page proces verbal.

The inquiring magistrate most certainly did her job. But as for the police… their actions in such a high profile case opens the door to many questions. For example, why didn’t the police investigate? Who really gave the order not to? Who took that decision? What kind of impact will it have on the prosecution’s case, if any? Why did the police choose to act in this manner?

The best person to answer those questions is Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa.  Yet he is elusive. He avoids the scrutiny of the media.  Gafa has attended the announcement of several new investments in the police force – the most recent being two days ago when the police force added seven electric vehicles to its fleet.  The media were not invited.

It is the go-to tactic of those with their backs against the wall, and of those who don’t want to answer to public scrutiny.  The allegation-ridden former minister Konrad Mizzi – who, ironically, is one of those charged in connection with the Vitals inquiry – used to adopt the same tactic when he was still a minister.

With the country’s authorities now under more scrutiny than ever, it’s not a good look.

 

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