Members of Parliament this evening questioned why police officers no longer required a clean conduct history to be eligible for re-engagement or promotion, asking what message this sent to the public.
Nationalist MPs Mario de Marco, Jason Azzopardi, and Beppe Fenech Adami today all posed a series of questions to Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia about changes that now allowed officers to be re-employed by the police corps, or to receive a promotion, even if they had been found guilty of a criminal offence.
“What motivated these changes? And what message are we sending to people out there: that it is ok for police officers to have committed a criminal offence?” Dr Fenech Adami asked.
Dr Farrugia insisted that officers found guilty of “serious” offences would not be eligible for re-employment or promotion, however, Dr Azzopardi was quick to question how the government would decide what constituted a serious criminal offence.
Dr Farrugia insisted that officers found guilty of “serious” offences would not be eligible for re-employment or promotion
“I assure you that no one who has gone to prison will be eligible,” Dr Farrugia said, adding that if MPs had concerns over any specific case they could discuss the matter with him privately.
Dr Azzopardi was quick to bring one up, questioning how police officer Mario Tonna had received two promotions and was now an assistant commissioner, despite having been found guilty of harassing and threatening his superior officer.
“We have a situation now where this officer is the superior of the person he had once threatened and harassed,” Dr Azzopardi said.
The MP asked whether theft and fraud were also acceptable crimes, to which Dr Farrugia replied “it depends on the amounts and whether it is classified as serious or not”.
Government MP Glenn Bedingfield then chimed in, pointing out that the Public Service Commission had given the go-ahead for Mr Tonna’s promotion.
Dr Farrugia insisted that the government had to respect its decision since the commission was an independent constitutional body.
Adding an air of intrigue to the proceedings, Dr Azzopardi said that the court sentence finding Mr Tonna guilty was not available online through the court website.
“Is this a coincidence?” he asked. The question did not receive a reply.
Back in 2011, Mr Tonna, then an inspector, had been found guilty of various criminal offences, including intimidating and harassing his superior, Superintendent Carmelo Bartolo.
He was also found guilty of making inappropriate use of a mobile phone and of committing a crime he was duty-bound to prevent as a police officer.
The original sentence was confirmed by the court of criminal appeal a year later except that the behaviour was declared as ‘harassment’ but not ‘intimidation’.
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