A hunter commissioned by a convent to cull pigeons in Vittoriosa was let off the hook after an appeal court found that he had been charged under the wrong law since the pigeons found by the police were not the protected species.

Lawrence Formosa, from Safi, had been fined €2,500 and suspended from having a hunter’s licence for two years after he was convicted of illegal hunting on and before June 23, 2021.

The police had been informed of a pigeon-culling operation in Vittoriosa. When they got to Saint Theresa Convent, Fr Alfred Debono told them that the convent had a huge problem with pigeons and had engaged the defendant to help them solve the issue.

Formosa admitted to the police that he had been asked by the convent to help them with the pigeon problem. On the convent roof, the police found a cage with five birds inside while six dead birds were found in the convent yard.

Pigeons were not a pure breed of the Columba Livia mentioned in the law

Formosa appealed the first court’s decision, arguing that the pigeons he was caught with were not the ones protected at law. 

Presiding over the Court of Criminal Appeal, Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera ruled that the prosecution had not managed to prove that the pigeons found in his possession were the same type as those protected through subsidiary regulations of the Wild Birds Regulations.

A court-appointed expert testified that the pigeons at the centre of the case were not a pure breed of the Columba Livia mentioned in the law but probably a mixed breed with other types of pigeons.

As a result, the court said it could not conclusively say that the defendant had committed an illegality, especially since the birds found in a cage on the convent’s roof were never submitted for testing.

The appeal court, therefore, cleared Formosa of all charges.

Lawyers Claudio Zammit and Franco Debono were defence counsel.

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