A man who admitted to illegally shooting and killing a protected bird has had his case thrown out by a magistrate’s court, after the court decided that the evidence against him was insufficient, BirdLife said.

The organisation said in a statement that the incident was witnessed and reported to the police in September last year by Bob Elliot and Ian Thomson, heads of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Investigation Unit in the UK and Scotland, respectively, who were attending BirdLife Malta’s Raptor Camp.

In their testimony both stated they had observed the defendant at Salina shooting at passing barn swallows, one of which fell to the ground when hit.

They then recorded video footage of the defendant picking up and handling the bird and using it to train his young retriever, and phoned the police to report the incident.

BirdLife claimed that ALE officers subsequently questioned the man, who, in his statement to the police, confessed to shooting at and killing a protected barn swallow while hunting at Salina.

But his defence lawyer argued that the video evidence did not actually show the hunter in the act of shooting the bird he was later seen handling, the organisation said.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, the RSPB’s Ian Thomson said, “I’m utterly appalled that such a clear cut case has ended up being thrown out by the court. Bob and I recently travelled back to Malta especially to give our evidence to the court. We both have considerable experience in assisting in the investigation of wildlife crime offences in the UK, and there are few cases when two of you witness an incident, can identify the perpetrator, provide supporting video evidence, and there is an admission by a suspect.

“This astonishing result raises very serious questions about the effectiveness of law enforcement and prosecution for wildlife crimes in Malta. It is no surprise that so many protected species continue to be killed, when such compelling evidence is either not presented to or disregarded by the court. Where is the deterrent?”

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