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Fresh calls for insurance for policemen after Luqa hit-and-run

Solidarity march to be held on Saturday morning

Liam Debono, 17, arriving at court yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Liam Debono, 17, arriving at court yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The Police Association is reiterating its call for all policemen to be covered by insurance following the hit-and-run incident in Luqa which left a traffic policeman critically injured.

Its general secretary, Robert Vella, said the association was unsure of the government’s stand on their position.

He insisted that men and women in uniform deserved better. 

“This is something we have been pushing for years, and we still cannot say whether anything will be done. We know as much as anyone else about this, which is not much,” Mr Vella said.

He said officers often had to live through the indignity of relying on handouts if they suffered serious injuries. The force’s top brass and the government, he noted, normally decided case-by-case whether or not to offer assistance to injured officers.

Senior police sources said Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar and Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia met briefly after Tuesday morning’s incident and discussed financial support for PC Simon Schembri family. They agreed “all necessary support” would be provided to ensure PC Schembri would be integrated back into the force and his family get the assistance it required, the sources said.

It could not be immediately clarified what the support would consist of.

Mr Vella said colleagues had already set an initiative in motion to raise funds for the injured officer and his family. He welcomed the fact that penalties against those convicted of assaulting policemen and other public officers had been raised, expressing the hope that the punishment would indeed fit the crime. 

PC Schembri, a married father-of-three, had one arm amputated and suffered serious rib and lung injuries. 

Liam Debono, 17 of Tarxien, was arraigned on Wednesday to face a series of 23 charges including attempted murder, negligent driving, disobeying police orders, driving without a licence and insurance and driving a car which should not have been on the road and had false number plates. 

Debono has been kept in custody, having had previous brushes with the law. 

SOLIDARITY MARCH ON SATURDAY

The Police Association and the Police Officers' Union/GWU are to jointly organise a march in solidarity with the injured traffic policeman as well as other injured officers. The activity will be held in Valletta on Saturday morning, starting at 10am in St George's Square and ending in front of parliament. The Malta Association of Retired Officers is also involved in the organisation.

Sandro Camilleri, president of the Police Officers’ Union, said the activity was open to all people. He said that apart from physical injury, many policemen were the target of verbal and social media abuse and threats. 

He said that on average, a policeman was injured every week. 

LUQA HIT AND RUN 'A FIRST'

The Luqa hit-and-run incident was likely to have been the first of its kind, according to police historian Eddie Attard.

Mr Attard, who served in the force for many years, said though this was not the first time an officer had been seriously injured on duty, the “particularities” of the case made it unique. “This is an alleged attempted murder of a police officer by the driver of a car. We have never had a case like this in the force’s history,” he noted.

The first case of an officer hit by a vehicle dates to 1932, when a constable died after he was run over by a bus.

The case was considered to be no more than an unfortunate accident.

Then, in 1952, another officer died in a hit-and-run in Ta’ Xbiex. Though the victim’s family insisted it was murder, a magisterial inquiry found no evidence to back this up. The driver was never identified.

The third incident of a police officer being hit by a vehicle occurred a few years later in Birkirkara during a roadblock.

However, again, there was no evidence of ill intent by the driver.

“These cases are different because they are all believed to have been accidents. However, this time, there is the allegation that there was a degree of intent by the driver, which certainly singles it out,” said Mr Attard.

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