Malta Bulletins 2001

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Bailed Out

ACTION TODAY

Article in the Malta Independent, 23. January 2002

Swan suspects granted bail

By Sandra Aquilina

The three Marsascala men charged with the callous shooting of six swans last Sunday were yesterday granted bail against a Lm100 deposit and a personal guarantee of Lm1,000 each.

Onlookers watched helplessly on Sunday as the three hunters pulled into St Thomas Bay in Marsascala on a speedboat. Peoples attempts to scare the men off were to no avail - the birds were brutally shot out of the water.

The men left two carcasses in the bay, but the rest were dumped in the open sea just outside Marsascala.

Mario Spagnol, 40, David Spagnol, 31, and Jason Spagnol, 23, were charged with carrying a loaded firearm in a place where hunting is forbidden, namely St Thomas' Bay in Marsascala, on 20 January.

They were also charged with hunting a protected species, with hunting a bird at a distance of less than three kilometres from the coast and with firing shots close to an inhabited area.

David and Jason Spagnol are also accused of hunting at sea without a licence.

Jason Spagnol is also charged with being in possession of an illegal firearm.

Mario Spagnol is also charged with possessing stuffed birds of protected species on 21 January in Zabbar, and with relapsing.

The court referred the case to magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona for continuation.

Inspectors Alexander Paul Miruzzi and Morgan Azzopardi prosecuted. Dr Ian Farrugia appeared for Mr Jason Spagnol, while Dr Edward Gatt appeared for Mr Mario Spagnol and Mr David Spagnol.

Meanwhile, the whole island has expressed shock at the shooting and several organisations have strongly condemned the incident.

Some organisations, like Birdlife Malta, Nature Trust and Partnership for Active Animal Welfare Societies (PAAWS) have called on the government to increase penalties for the offenders since the present legislation regarding such occurrences is not enough of a deterrent.

Alternattiva Demokratika echoed this: This episode shows the importance of the Administrative Law Enforcement section of the police force. We therefore appeal to the authorities to strengthen this section through a greater investment in personnel and resources.

AD thanked the public for reporting the matter to the police and appealed to the public to remain vigilant against those who torture and kill animals.

Mute swans are found in Central and Eastern Europe, but do not winter further south than Northern Italy.

They are rare visitors to the Maltese Islands. However, the unusually cold weather that has hit Europe lately has pushed the birds to migrate as far south as Malta.

KILLERS OUT ON BAIL

Eurobirder/Proact-Malta David Conlin 2001