Construction magnate Charles Polidano, acquitted over an incident at his Montekristo Animal Park wherein a five-year old boy was mauled by a tiger, was once again cleared of all criminal liability on appeal. 

Mr Polidano had been targeted by criminal prosecution, alongside Michael Mercieca and Muhammad Saleem, the two handlers who had been holding the tiger on a metal leash on the day of the incident.

That Sunday afternoon back in November 2015, the five-year-old was on a visit to the park with his grandfather when, just after stepping off a carousel, he had approached the tiger which had been taken out of its cage because it was unwell. 

The animal had lashed out at the boy, causing him lacerations to his face and head which necessitated an emergency intervention at Mater Dei Hospital.

Mr Polidano and his two employees had been charged over the incident. Mr Polidano was also separately charged with running an unlicensed animal park, keeping wild animals that were not allowed in Malta, as well as with relapsing.

Both Mr Polidano and Mr Mercieca had been cleared of all charges by a Magistrates’ Court in July 2018.

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The other co-accused, Mr Saleem, who was actually handling the animal at the time of the incident, was declared guilty and conditionally discharged for three years, with the court commenting that he ought to have been more careful when handling the tiger outside the cage and within reach of the public.

The court had also taken note of the out-of-court settlement reached with the boy’s family.

That judgment had prompted an appeal by the Attorney General with the final judgment being delivered on Thursday, whereby Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera confirmed the first judgment. 

On the basis of the evidence put forward, the court concluded that the prosecution had failed to prove that Mr Polidano was in any way responsible for the tiger. 

Does Mr Polidano actually own a zoo?

There was no sufficient proof that he owned the zoo nor that he kept the dangerous animal, the court said. 

As for the charge of having run an unlicenced zoo, the court observed that the prosecution had not produced a list of animals at the park on the day of the incident. 

The fact that a tiger was present at the time and that visitors had seen other animals on the day, was not sufficient to prove that the accused had kept a zoo without a licence. 

The court rejected the appeal, confirming the first judgment. Lawyers Edward Gatt, Mark Vassallo and Jean Paul Sammut were defence counsel. 

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