A statement of facts by the lawyers of the Sealife Captain appealing a €10,000 fine for steering the MV Lifeline into Maltese waters without the necessary registration or licence was too lengthy, the Attorney General argued in court on Tuesday.
The vessel had entered Maltese waters after saving 234 migrants from the Mediterrean sea in June 2018, sparking an international dispute.
Although the vessel was eventually granted permission to enter Malta, after which the rescued migrants were to be re-directed to various countries, the Captain, Claus-Peter Reisch, ended up facing criminal charges for steering the vessel into Maltese territorial waters without the necessary registration and licence.
After months of court hearings and numerous testimonies, judgment was delivered by the Magistrates’ Court whereby the Captain was fined €10,000, with presiding Magistrate Joseph Mifsud observing that although the charges carried a 12-month prison term, such punishment had never been contemplated since the court had “immediately understood the circumstances of the case”.
An appeal was filed by the Captain, with a first hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
However, when the appeal was called, the Attorney General raised a preliminary objection arguing that the statement of facts drafted by the Captain’s lawyers was too lengthy and was not limited solely to facts but contained a number of allegations.
The Captain’s lawyers countered that, although the law did indeed state that facts were to be stated concisely, the complexity of the case essentially called for reference to context and a clear exposition of the facts.
Indeed, “three pages were not, in fact, lengthy,” argued the lawyers, adding that they had made no allegations but simply limited themselves to uncontested facts.
The Court, presided over by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, adjourned the case to next month for a decision on this preliminary issue.
Lawyers Cedric Mifsud, Neil Falzon and Gianluca Cappitta are assisting the Captain.
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