Times of Malta reported yesterday that Magistrate Joe Mifsud got the job of conducting this inquiry because the police held on to Repubblika’s report until he came on duty. That does not necessarily mean they meant it that way. It does not necessarily mean they knew or hoped Joe Mifsud would be a magistrate that would more likely protect the people Repubblika felt should be investigated.
If we are to take the police’s explanation at face value, however, the official story is just as worrying. Worrying for all of us who are ever going to need the institutions of the state to act if someone we know or care about gets killed.
Repubblika’s official personally filed the report at 15:20 of the 16th April. Now understand that the news of the 12 deaths had emerged the morning of the day before. That was long enough for Repubblika to grow impatient and walk into police headquarters to urge them to act.
Repubblika’s man asked the officer at reception to verify the police chief would get the letter that day. The official checked and confirmed. But, according to the magistrate’s report, nothing happened until 6pm the next day. As Newsbook reported, a 27-hour delay in a procedure that the law specifies must kick in ‘without delay’.
Apparently the reason is the police chief and his staff had gone home for the day already. At 3.20pm. Oh come on. Really?
Is this what happens when a murder is alleged after 3pm? We wait until the next morning and then wait some more to get to the sealed envelope in the in-tray before informing a magistrate to start preserving evidence?
The police chief might prefer it if we made fun of this. He’d rather look stupid than look worse. The responses he sent to Times of Malta and Newsbook are in effect an insanity plea.
At one point the police remind Times of Malta that Repubblika could have gone straight to court to ask for a magisterial inquiry rather than go to the police first. This is the first ever case of a middleman cutting himself out. So, we don’t need the police anymore? If we become aware of the crime the procedure is no longer to ask the police to investigate because – accept it, guys – the police cannot be arsed. Go straight to the magistrate and hope for the best. What utter bollocks.
They would rather look lazy or stupid or both because there are two alternative explanations for their behaviour and they are not mutually exclusive. One alternative explanation could be that it does not matter to the police if the lives lost belong to black people who never set foot on Malta, not for want of trying. The other alternative explanation could be that the police, or whoever they were getting their instructions from, were told to hold on informing the duty magistrate until someone could check and make sure what the magistrate on duty felt about the incident.
And may the odds be ever in your favour.