Mother acquitted, police reprimanded after pushchair on bus incident

Police 'exceeded their jurisdiction' by ordering woman to go to station

A young mother was cleared of all charges following a scuffle with police on board a bus in St Julian's two years ago, after the driver had insisted on denying her boarding unless she first closed the pushchair in which her child was sleeping.

Following the incident, Polina Gutshabes, 27, had landed in court to answer to charges of having assaulted and resisted police arrest, with having threatened the officers, disobeyed their orders and disturbed the peace.

The incident happened on August 9, 2015 when the mother, together with her husband and two young children attempted to board the bus from St Julian's to Buġibba. Following a verbal argument with the driver who insisted on the pushchair being closed, the man got off the bus and headed to the nearby police station for assistance.

The determined mother was seated quietly on the bus when two officers approached her asking her to accompany them to the station to give her version of events. She refused, sparking off a scuffle during which both the mother and a policewoman sustained slight injuries.

The court, presided over by magistrate Doreen Clarke, observed that when approached by the police the mother was not doing anything that amounted to an offence. At that point, her arrest would have been illegal and, in fact, the officers had not asked for her personal details.

The court observed that no one may be taken to a police station for questioning “against his will… unless legally under arrest.”

This meant that the woman had every right to refuse to obey the police who had "exceeded their jurisdiction", the court declared.

An offensive word directed at the police had been said in protest over the way she was handled and consequently, it was evident that the accused's intention “was not to offend.”

Neither could the woman be declared guilty of breaching the peace since "“the entire incident was unfortunately provoked by the police officers due to their mishandling it" concluded the magistrate, acquitting the mother of all the charges.

Lawyers Giannella DeMarco and Stephen Tonna Lowell were defence counsel.