A court ruled today that the definition of "inhabited area" in the law governing the granting of permits for the letting off of fireworks was in violation of a family's fundamental human right to privacy and to freedom from discrimination.

The judgment was delivered by Mr Justice Raymond C Pace in a constitutional application filed by Frederick Zammit Maempel, his wife Suzette and his children Julian and Martina against the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General. The Saint Helen Fireworks Association later intervened into the suit.

The Zammit Maempels told the court that they lived in Vincenz Galea Street, San Gwann in an area where fireworks were set off for the feasts of St Helen and St Anthony. The area was inhabited by fewer than 100 persons.

The Zammit Maempels pleaded that every time fireworks were let off, they were at serious risk of damage to themselves and their property, and they also suffered damages as a result of falling debris. They had complained of this situation to the Police Commissioner for years but the situation had not been resolved. Although the Ombudsman had decided in their favour, the Police Commissioner had again issued a licence to the Fireworks Association to let off fireworks.

They claimed that the law governing the issue of licences for fireworks did not protect their legitimate interests as it defined an inhabited area as an area inhabited by more than 100 persons. Furthermore the law did not provide for the publication of applications for licences and for the participation of residents in the debate as to whether a licence should be issued or not.

The Zammit Maempels requested a declaration from the courts that their fundamental human rights had been violated and for the courts to grant them a remedy.

The court noted that the Ombudsman had concluded that the Police Commissioner ought not to have issued the licences and this upon the findings of a group of experts on the matter.

The court found that the dischrge of fireworks from the areas complained of constituted an inconvenience and was a cause of serious damage to the Zammit Maempel family and was thereore in violation of their right to privacy. The law granted protection from fireworks to persons who lived in an area inhabited by over 100 persons but not to persons where the numbers were fewer.

The definition of what constituted an inhabited area did not bring about a balance between interference by a public authority and what was necessary to protect the privacy of an individual. The danger, risks and damages to which the Zammit Maempels were being exposed were very great when compared to the grant of a licence for fireworks.

The court also found that the legal definition brought about discrimination between different groups of persons.

Mr Justice Pace concluded his judgment by finding in favour of the Zammit Maempels and by ruling that the definition of an inhabited area violated their rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination. The court declared the definition to be null and void in the context of the letting off of fireworks.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us