Mario Portelli, chief witness in the trial that acquitted David Gatt in an organised crime trial two years ago, has uploaded a video on his Facebook profile earlier today that appears to show him being arrested by the police to be committed to the mental institution.

Geplaatst door Mario Portelli op Vrijdag 22 februari 2019

In his video, Mario Portelli claims that the police were doing this after a complaint made by his elderly father (who is briefly seen and heard on the video) that he is “sick.” Mario Portelli’s father appears to have made his complaint to the Police after an earlier Facebook post by Mario Portelli in which he repeated the allegation that Joseph Muscat lied under oath about not being the ultimate owner of Egrant, the Panama company set up in secret together with Keith Schembri’s and Konrad Mizzi’s acknowledged companies.

In January, Mario Portelli was also committed to the mental institution after a similarly controversial post. This website had written about it in this post and reported that Mario Portelli’s involuntary committal happened after he claimed he also had knowledge of a connection between David Gatt, his personal friend Minister Chris Cardona and the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The video of today’s arrest raises a number of questions.

For the police to arrest an individual, they — the Police — must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or the arrest might reasonably be expected to prevent a crime from happening. Any other arrest is arbitrary and therefore illegal.

Since criminal libel has been abolished in Malta, it is no longer a crime to slander someone else. Therefore the police cannot consider a criminal action has occurred when Mario Portelli claimed that the Prime Minister perjured himself or that he owned a secret Panama company. Without a suspicion of a crime, there are no grounds to arrest Mario Portelli.

If the Prime Minister feels he has been slandered and wants to do something about it he can sue Mario Portelli in the civil courts but slander is not a police matter.

A person can be held by the police and committed against their will in a mental institution if a close relative (such as Mario Portelli’s father) complains they are psychotic. But that is not enough. If it was, many an abusive husband could call the police to get their wives out of the way for complaining too loudly about them leaving the toilet seat open. This is why the law also requires the police to ascertain two other considerations before they escort someone to the mental hospital against their will.

A warranted medical doctor must share the view of that family relative and – and this is very important – they must form the view that unless they take the allegedly psychotic person to a mental hospital, the person would be of imminent danger to themselves or to others.

Therefore I could stand on a stool in Republic Street and declare insistently that I have been abducted by aliens but even if my mortified father and a warranted medical doctor agree that is psychotic behaviour the police would need to form the opinion that I am of imminent danger to myself or others before they drag me against my will to the hospital in Attard.

Unless you’re a psychiatrist — and in case of doubt, I’m not one — you’re not qualified to form an opinion from this video on whether Mario Portelli is psychotic. But you have the same faculties available to the police to decide whether Mario Portelli is of imminent danger to himself or to others. Rather you have to sit through his earlier post from today where he repeated the allegation about Joseph Muscat and Egrant because that will have been the basis for Mario Portelli’s father’s  call to the police and the decision of the Police — led by a Superintendent, no less — to visit Mario Portelli at his home and arrest him.

Geplaatst door Mario Portelli op Donderdag 21 februari 2019

You should know that even the police’s view — after a report from a relative and a warranted medical doctor — is subject to review. In the hospital, a psychiatrist is required to see the committed patient within 24 hours and even if they agree to retain the patient against their will they have a 10-day limit within which time they must decide whether to recommend an order to treat the patient even against their will.

Again, a treatment order must be based on the view that the patient is in imminent danger of hurting themselves or others and requires the recommendation of a team of professionals and the approval of the Commissioner for Mental Health.

It’s only in case a person under such a treatment order when on temporary leave from the mental hospital, acts in a manner that requires them to be recommitted, that the doctor at the hospital can ask the police to drag them back.

In the Criminal Code, there’s the power of a Court to order for someone to be taken for observation to a mental hospital but there’s no evidence this has happened either today or on the prior occasion in January that Mario Portelli was committed against his will.

Why is this important? I am not arguing here that I have a view on the credibility of Mario Portelli’s claims, nor even on his capacity to form those opinions. I would like to think that the action of the police against him is not connected to the fact that whatever psychosis they suspect he suffers from, their view and their action does not arise from the fact that Mario Portelli is expressing views that, if correct, would be damaging to the Prime Minister.

My concern here is not about what Mario Portelli is saying.

My concern is that we have procedures in our laws about committing people to mental hospitals against their will that are designed to ensure that the State does not use the excuse of mental illness to remove from circulation people with problematic opinions and without due process.

Mental institutions have been used as political prisons before, in this country as well.

Therefore anything short of strict adherence to due process is a worrying sign that it is possible that one day you might find the Police at your door with handcuffs ready to ferry you to a mental hospital if you say something you’re not meant to say.

If that’s what’s happening to Mario Portelli, we have an even more serious problem than we ever dared fear.