Police take action against sergeant
Disciplinary action will be taken against a police sergeant over his behaviour when dealing with a minor incident at McDonald’s outlet in St Julian’s.
In a note to Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, who had ordered an internal inquiry after hearing a court case on the incident, Police Commissioner John Rizzo said it had been established that Police Sergeant Ramon Mifsud Grech “lacked professionalism” when dealing with a group of customers who were shouting at the McDonald’s fast food restaurant in St Julian’s last March.
Mr Rizzo informed the magistrate that disciplinary action would be taken against the 41-year-old sergeant from Birkirkara over the incident.
Magistrate Depasquale had ordered the investigation as he threw out a criminal case instituted by the police against a 27-year-old man who, they said, threatened them while they were carrying out their duties.
The case revolves around an incident on March 19 when McDonald’s staff asked a customer to leave, accusing him of being too loud.
The police were called in and the customer left the restaurant as soon as he was ordered to. However, once on the pavement, he and two policemen, who in the meantime had been joined by others from the nearby station, were involved in what witnesses called a “commotion”.
The customer ended up on the ground beneath a number of officers who were trying to arrest him.
He was subsequently charged with threatening the two officers while carrying out their duties, breaching the peace and refusing to give his particulars. He was cleared of the charges.
In handing down judgment, Magistrate Depasquale said the court was “convinced” that the incident had not happened in the way that the police had alleged. He further noted that the police “may have used excessive force”.
Mr Mifsud Grech had also been charged, together with another two officers, of slightly injuring a French tourist but the case was thrown out because of a mistake on the charge sheet regarding the time of the alleged incident.
The officers were charged again last week in connection with the same incident, this time giving the correct time but the charge of slight injury was dropped because it became time-barred.
The policemen are contesting the fresh charges – which include damaging the Frenchman’s camera and committing a crime they were in duty bound to prevent – claiming double jeopardy, meaning that they cannot be charged twice for the same offence.
Action against sergeant
Mr Mifsud Grech was also mentioned in the case against suspended police inspector Jeffrey Cilia who alleged that he was assaulted by the sergeant.
Mr Rizzo told the magistrate that the investigation was carried out by the force’s internal affairs section, which had questioned Mr Mifsud Grech and three other police officers as well as three McDonald’s staff, the customer in question and four of his friends.
He told the magistrate that since the investigation followed the court case, the police and the customers had ample time to “agree on a specific version of events”. The version of the restaurant staff was more “independent and spontaneous”, Mr Rizzo noted.
He said the inquiry established that the customers were being very noisy and that was why the police were asked to intervene. It also confirmed that one of them had started arguing with the police on why he was being escorted out.
Mr Rizzo said it did not emerge that the police had any ulterior motive to charge the customer in court. He admitted that the prosecution had not produced enough witnesses to support its claims, including the restaurant staff. Moreover, there were defence witnesses who did not testify in court.