An appeals court today ruled against Resources Minister George Pullicino in a libel case over a newspaper report which claimed that the minister had physically attacked the president of Pitkali Crates Ltd.

The libel case was instituted by Mr Pullicino over an article entitled Jaggredixxi lill-President tal-Bord tal-Pitkali Crates, published in KullHadd on February 6, 2006.

The article alleged that as Mr Pullicino was carrying out an inspection at the Pitkali market, he objected to the way how crates were washed. According to the article, there was much shouting, and at one time Mr Pullicino grabbed Joseph Farrugia, president of Pitkali Crates, by the neck.

In its judgment the first court said that the evidence produced in this case was conflicting. Mr Pullicino had denied grabbing Mr Farrugia by the neck, and his testimony was confirmed by officials of the Agriculture Department. On the other hand, the witnesses produced by Mr Agius, all of whom were employees of Pitkali Crates Limited, contradicted Mr Pullicino's statement.

The court added however that the evidence confirmed that at the time of the alleged incident Mr Pullicino was very angry that the crates were not being properly washed. It also resulted that Mr Pullicino had grabbed Mr Farrugia by his jacket hood.

The first court had concluded in favour of Mr Pullicino and had ruled that even though pulling Mr Farrugia's hood could be interpreted as an act of aggression, there was doubt due to the conflicting evidence. As a result, the court could not conclude that there was a violent incident as reported in the newspaper article.

But Mr Justice Philip Sciberras in the appeals court said that it was a fact that immediately before the incident, Mr Pullicino had followed Mr Farrugia and had grabbed him by his jacket collar while in a state of rage and excitement. One could not conclude that Mr Pullicino's actions did not override the balanced conduct expected from a person occupying a public office as a government minister. Mr Pullicino's actions were such it was very probable that he had grabbed Mr Farrugia, even momentarily, by the neck.

The court therefore overturned the judgment of the Magistrates Court which had awarded Mr Pullicino Lm200 in libel damages.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us