Is using that term for the search on Joseph Muscat’s house meant to demonise the executive and judicial police?

A raid is a very specific kind of search. The dynamics involve searching a large or open space that requires a substantial number of law enforcers to do this.

It is not a legal term in our law, but one used journalistically. Historically, it is associated with major policing operations such as the American Prohibition’s massive searches, where busloads of police officers were needed to search distilleries and warehouses.

A three-man search is, therefore, not a raid. It is a standard search, a ‘tfittxija’ or ‘perkwiżizzjoni’.

So stop infusing a typical investigative routine with the idea of the police force swarming around a suspect, betraying some unwritten rule. Unless, that is, it is being used as a metaphor or a Freudian slip, meant to demonise both the executive and the judicial police for all the wrong reasons.

It is more than a mathematical formula: there is no minimum number of personnel constituting a raid. And two searches, in separate locations on the same day, even if pertaining to the same investigation, don’t add up and make a raid, either.

Visualise instead the potato-shed raid – that was an actual raid, with a large number of police personnel, an open space, and armed officers as sentinels.

That being said, stop hounding investigating magistrates for doing their job. Remember that they can only be removed by two-thirds of the House of Representatives, and not by narcissistic discard.

And if this is the prevailing attitude towards inquiring magistrates, imagine the political will for the introduction of the role of a member of the judiciary focusing solely on inquests. This is a legal creature that somehow, Malta has shied away from, citing anything from “we’re too small for this” to the ultra intransigent myopia of “don’t mention mafia activity”.

Sometimes I wonder who’s more conservative, the party in government or the opposition. There seems to be more dedication towards developing the e-courts system rather than populating the ranks, all of them, and structuring the system to serve the primary obligation of providing access to justice.

Stop putting children in the fray. Mobile phones are just electronic means that contain information relevant to the investigation.

Any CSI episode on television would explain that and would show how the contents are copied to be preserved as evidence. It could easily have been a laptop or tablet instead.

Had there been the gardener, maid, driver or even the pet cat using mobile phones under the same roof, the gadgets would still be subject to sequestration if the search brief said so. And they’d have to be picked up, whether they’re lying around or in a garbage bag.

As for minors, we have all heard the infamous equation of ‘politician + children’ working wonders on supporters’ emotional attachment to the politician. And it had that effect, even if no one envisaged it within the unhappy context of a search.

But enough said about that. Maybe the timing might raise a human rights question but, then again, what’s a typical time when all the persons are found in the same place at the same time, before going on with their day? Where does one draw the line? What is too early and what is too late?

Just place yourselves in the police’s shoes. It’s not an easy decision, because whichever way it goes, someone is going to be shredded for it.

Therefore, to speak about a raid when it’s not, or to embellish the term into something that it is not, becomes more than a linguistic offence.

In February 2020, I wrote an opinion piece where I argued that Red does not investigate Red, and when it happens, it’s because it takes some real police guts to do so. I also wrote that no one wants his CV to show that he created a “red inferno”.

Now you know why: it becomes incendiary, as out come the banshees and the harpies rallying public support in the aftermath of the search. People are urged to participate in ‘protests’, another misinterpreted tool in the democratic arsenal.

Remember the 1980s’ ‘dimostrazzjoni spontanja’ cliché meant for Ġaħan to bolster the ego of the politicians in government for a job well done, whatever that meant? Three of those events wrecked havoc as they targeted the Curia in Floriana, Times of Malta and the law courts.

So stop using the term ‘protesting’ when what is really meant is ‘mobbing’, North Korean style.

There’s one other point: should the police have given a press conference covering the details of the search? Of course not. The investigation is still a work in progress.

This is not just a linguistic exercise. It takes emotional intelligence and discipline to divest words from unnecessary emotional tags, personal agendas and witch-hunts.

Mary Muscat is a lawyer and former police inspector

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