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Traditional festa horse races under court scrutiny

Jockey cleared of breaching animal welfare laws

Monday's accident in Victoria. Photo: Marion Feron

Monday's accident in Victoria. Photo: Marion Feron

Traditional festa horse races came under the scrutiny of a magistrate presiding over a criminal action against a jockey charged with breaching animal welfare laws.

Tino Borg, 42, had been charged with causing his horse unnecessary pain, suffering or distress when participating in the traditional races held along Republic Street in Victoria in August 2016 to mark the feast of the Assumption.

“How could such races be permitted in honour of some patron saint,” the Court questioned, stressing that such events were only to be allowed along authorised racecourses at Marsa and tax-Xħajma in Gozo, but certainly not on public roads.

Moreover, in spite of constant appeals by health authorities urging people to stay indoors and drink fresh water, these races continued to be held in the scorching heat of a typical Maltese summer afternoon, the court observed.

Turning to the facts of the case, Magistrate Joseph Mifsud, presiding over the Gozo Court, observed that the accused had not been adequately identified as the person to have inflicted the alleged suffering.

There was also a lack of evidence as to the suffering of any horse and no examination had been carried out to determine the facts alleged by the prosecution.

On the basis of the video footage and testimonies produced, the court cleared the jockey since the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

The court’s appeal in this case acquires particular significance when viewed in the light of events in Gozo three days ago.

During Monday's traditional races in Victoria’s Republic Street an elderly Gozitan woman was seriously injured upon being knocked down by a horse.

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