A man seen chasing and hitting a mare with his trousers down inside a Gozo stable has been jailed and fined for animal cruelty.

Robert Omo, a 22-year old Nigerian national, was seen on CCTV footage as he touched the animal and pulled down his trousers as he stood behind the mare.

The incident took place on the evening of September 30, at dusk when the accused had entered the private property.

Stable owners discovered he had entered the private property after viewing CCTV footage the following morning.

The footage, subsequently handed over to police and closely analyzed by the court, showed the accused also chasing the animal around the stables, then pulling up his trousers and stepping outside to smoke a cigarette.

Soon after, he went back inside, kicking the animal and striking it with a hard object.

Before taking his leave, he grabbed a tyre from a scrap pile lying outside the stable and flung it at the mare.

It was the sight of that tyre next to one of the animals that roused the suspicion of the owners the following morning and prompted them to check CCTV footage.

When testifying in court, the owners of the Xewkija stables claimed that the mare had been traumatised and had changed after the incident, even attempting to bite its owners following the episode.

The accused had also testified. He said that day he had consumed too much alcohol and was drunk when he went to the stables to look for his mobile phone, thinking he must have dropped it there when he called there the previous day, looking for a job.

But the court, presided over by magistrate Joseph Mifsud, threw out that excuse, stating clearly that he did not believe the accused.

Upon the evidence put forward, the court concluded that the animal cruelty had been sufficiently proved, pointing out how the accused had hit and kicked the mare, and had even flung a tyre and wheel rim at the animal.

The violation of private property had also been proved, said the court.

However, a charge of offence against public morals or decency was not sufficiently proved, the court found. Prosecutors had resorted to that charge because Maltese law lacked an express provision forbidding sexual acts with animals.

The court observed that such a provision under the Sexual Offences Act in England, imposed a maximum 12-month jail term for such an offence.

The court thus cleared the accused on that charge but declared him guilty of animal cruelty and violation of private property, condemning him to a one-year jail term and a €3,000 fine and ordering his immediate repatriation to Italy after serving sentence.

It also urged the Refugees Appeals Board to decide straightforward cases within three months of the Refugee Commissioner’s decision.

Inspector Bernard Charles Spiteri prosecuted.

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