I literally choked on my coffee when I read the Home Affairs Ministry’s defence of Mario Tonna, the assistant police commissioner forced to step down after his partner allegedly reported he had beaten her up.

“Ass. Commissioner Tonna was a hard-working officer who worked his way up through the ranks and worked long hours for the benefit of the police corps and the public,” the ministry statement read, blissfully unaware of the ramifications.

To put it crudely, it's like telling your partner: "I've had a really long day at the office, I went beyond my call of duty for the sake of the nation, I hope you wouldn't mind if I come knock you about a bit”. 

I am not even going to go into the merits of the case. For all I know, it might be a storm in a teacup. But the mere fact that a woman worked up the nerve to walk into a police station and file a report claiming she was the victim of domestic abuse – she even allegedly claimed she had been head-butted by her policeman partner – should have sent alarm bells ringing.

The minute that report was filed should have prompted the Police Commissioner to march Tonna into his office and sack him on the spot, no questions asked, before launching an internal probe. The fact the alleged victim – for her own (I hope valid) reasons – withdrew the report is even irrelevant. 

The fact the report was withdrawn does not make the alleged aggressor a lesser bully. Let's also remember that in 2011 Tonna was found guilty in court of harassing his superior and subsequently banned from seeking further promotion. But of course this is Malta, and a new policy in 2013 allowed police officers with criminal records to be recruited or promoted... and, of course, Tonna was promoted to superintendent in 2015 and then again to assistant commissioner last June.

The fact Tonna resigned, instead of being sacked, could also mean that he will still be entitled to benefits, pensions… But why punish this poor man? Why even bother to investigate the claims?

Instead, we have been regaled with statement which comes across as though the ministry is almost condoning domestic violence. What message will it send to the dozens of victims who were plucking the courage to file a report?

The police are there to uphold the rule of law and protect victims of domestic violence, not to be even remotely implicated in it. This is what gives the public full faith in our police corps.



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