The sys­tem­atic fail­ings of our po­lice force

I have been de­bat­ing whether I should write this ar­ti­cle. What do I have to say that hasn’t al­ready been said?

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - LETTERS - Alice Tay­lor

How can I put into words the up­set, anger, and frus­tra­tion I am feel­ing? And is it wise to keep writ­ing, be­cause maybe now I should take the threats made against me due to this col­umn, a lit­tle more se­ri­ously. But in the spirit of jour­nal­ism, blog­ging, free speech and all the rest, I de­cided I should say my bit.

Daphne was an in­spi­ra­tion – she was en­cour­ag­ing, she was ad­mirable, and she was one of a kind. She ex­er­cised her right to free speech, she said what she thought, and she said things that I bet ev­ery sin­gle one of you say be­tween your­selves, the only dif­fer­ence was that she said it in pub­lic. The peo­ple who com­plained that she spread hate and venom, or made un­nec­es­sary per­sonal at­tacks are of­ten the same peo­ple that will not hes­i­tate to do so them­selves on a daily ba­sis. Ev­ery so­ci­ety and ev­ery coun­try needs a voice like hers, re­gard­less of whether you liked or agreed with her. Her writ­ing was nec­es­sary to bal­ance out the tribal, syco­phan­tic, and of­ten two-faced non­sense that sat­u­rates our gov­ern­ment, so­ci­ety, and the me­dia.

I am go­ing to steer clear of point­ing fin­gers at Labour or Na­tion­al­ist, as both had rea­son to want her gone. Both are des­per­ately try­ing to ma­nip­u­late the sit­u­a­tion for po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage, and I don’t want any part of it.

I will how­ever point fin­gers at the po­lice.

Daphne re­ported threats to the po­lice over a week be­fore she was mur­dered and yet noth­ing was done. She told the lo­cal po­lice that she was re­ceiv­ing threats against her life, she even posted it on her blog, and yet days later, me­tres away from her house, she was mur­dered in a care­fully cal­cu­lated and thor­oughly planned at­tack. In the wake of her mur­der, the po­lice have been com­pletely silent, save for the world’s most em­bar­rass­ing, cringe­wor­thy, and un­pro­fes­sional press con­fer­ence, held three days later, where not one sin­gle ques­tion was an­swered. In­com­pe­tence and in­dif­fer­ence at its finest.

So why did the po­lice just not care? Was it be­cause of who she was? Be­cause she was a big critic of both the po­lice and the judicial sys­tem? Or was it be­cause the po­lice have a ter­ri­ble record of pro­tect­ing the very peo­ple they are sup­posed to serve? I think more than any­thing that it was the lat­ter.

Nine months ago, I had my Face­book and email hacked. The in­di­vid­ual sent me threats from his per­sonal ac­count, as well as post­ing vile and deroga­tory com­ments once he gained ac­cess to my pri­vate ac­count. I nearly lost my job over the in­ci­dent, and when I went to the po­lice sta­tion with my evi- dence, I was turned away and told that I couldn’t file a re­port. De­spite them ac­knowl­edg­ing that the threats were il­le­gal and that the act of hack­ing and us­ing my ac­count with­out my per­mis­sion was il­le­gal, I was told that I would be mak­ing a big deal out of noth­ing, and that if I was to take le­gal ac­tion, the per­pe­tra­tor would seek re­venge and cause more harm against me.

Sev­eral years ago, I was as­saulted in a do­mes­tic in­ci­dent. I was threat­ened and pres­sured into “drop­ping” the charges in court by the as­sailant, and I did so hop­ing that the sev­eral pages long med­i­cal re­port would give the judge a clue that the de­fen­dant de­served to be pun­ished. But no, I was told, in front of a court full of peo­ple “next time it hap­pens, think twice be­fore calling the po­lice as you are just wast­ing po­lice time”. The man went on to as­sault me again, caus­ing me to lose 60 per cent of hear­ing in my right ear, as well as leav­ing me with sev­eral scars on my body that don’t ap­pear to be fad­ing.

Then there is the case of a young woman who was sys­tem­at­i­cally stalked, sex­u­ally ha­rassed and abused from the age of 16, for a to­tal of four years. The as­sailant is a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the up­per ech­e­lons of power and holds a se­nior role in a prom­i­nent author­ity. Sev­eral at­tempts to re­port his ac­tions, backed up with sub­stan­tial ev­i­dence, re­sulted in her be­ing turned away and re­fused the right to file a re­port. This cul­mi­nated in a vi­cious rape in a pub­lic place where she suf­fered mul­ti­ple se­ri­ous in­juries. All ef­forts to re­port him and to ask for help and pro­tec­tion from the po­lice were re­buffed and as a re­sult, she con­tin­ued to en­dure years of abuse and vi­o­lence, with no pro­tec­tion from the po­lice what­so­ever.

What about the young woman who was fol­lowed, threat­ened, and ha­rassed by her ex-part­ner, to the point she recorded the threats and made her way to the po­lice sta­tion to file a re­port? She was turned away and told there was noth­ing they could do as their hands were tied.

What about the woman who caught her ex stalk­ing her, let­ting the air out of her car tyres, and send­ing threat­en­ing mes­sages? When she ap­proached the po­lice with her ev­i­dence and asked for their pro­tec­tion, she was told she would be wast­ing her time go­ing to court, that she was mak­ing a big deal out of it, and then ad­vised her that if she wanted to pro­tect her­self, she should not go out alone.

What about the woman who was told she would be ar­rested for dis­turb­ing the pub­lic peace be­cause she tried to file charges against a bouncer that kicked her in the stom­ach?

What about the woman who was told she would also be charged with ha­rass­ment, when she con­tacted the po­lice with record­ings of threats and harassing mes­sages made to her by her ex-part­ner?

What about the woman in Zab­bar who, when she en­quired if the men who tried to set her on fire were be­ing kept in cus­tody, was told “I can­not keep him locked up in a cage so as to pro­tect you”?

What about the woman who af­ter be­ing beaten up by her part­ner, was in­ter­ro­gated in a room full of male of­fi­cers to the point of break­ing down and was then pros­e­cuted for de­fend­ing her­self?

What about the woman who made a re­port against a vi­o­lent part­ner and then dis­cov­ered they had read her state­ment to her abuser, be­fore he made his of­fi­cial state­ment?

What about the woman who was asked what she did to pro­voke her abu­sive part­ner, and when she replied “noth­ing”, was told that the po­lice wouldn’t do any­thing as she must have done some­thing to de­serve it?

These are just a hand­ful of the ac­counts I have been given from women that have been com­pletely failed by the sys­tem. Some en­dured con­tin­ued abuse for years, oth­ers could make their es­cape. But what about the women who are trapped in these sit­u­a­tions, too scared to speak up, and fear­ful of the way they will be treated when they con­tact the au­thor­i­ties for help?

It isn’t just Daphne’s blood that is on the po­lices hands, it is the blood of hun­dreds of women in this coun­try that are ig­nored, in­tim­i­dated, laughed at, un­der­mined, and pushed away when they ask for help to pro­tect them­selves. How many women must suf­fer, and in some cases mur­dered like Daphne was be­cause they are not taken se­ri­ously or are of­ten com­pletely ig­nored?

Whether Daphne was mur­dered by a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated force, or a civil­ian with a se­ri­ous per­sonal vendetta, I am con­fi­dent we will never know. The rule of law has col­lapsed in this coun­try, and the re­sound­ing si­lence from our po­lice force com­bined with their to­tal lack of ac­tion be­fore her mur­der is a huge cause for con­cern, as well be­ing an en­demic at­ti­tude within their ranks.

I am not try­ing to hi­jack Daphne’s death to push my agenda. I am merely draw­ing at­ten­tion to the fact that the fail­ings she suf­fered at the hands of the po­lice, are fail­ings that Mal­tese women en­counter all too fre­quently. I can­not help but think that if they had taken her se­ri­ously, done their jobs, or been pro­fes­sional about the sit­u­a­tion then per­haps she may still be with us.

Un­for­tu­nately, this coun­try has lost one of the true voices of truth and rea­son, and it is a gap­ing void that can never be filled. How­ever, I take a small amount of com­fort in the fact that in­stead of si­lenc­ing her, her as­sas­sin has cat­a­pulted her, her words and the fail­ings of our sys­tem into the in­ter­na­tional arena. I just wish that some­thing good can come from this dev­as­tat­ing blow, that jus­tice will be served and the in­sti­tu­tions that are sup­posed to pro­tect us, start re­mem­ber­ing their duty, and quickly.

It isn’t just Daphne’s blood that is on the po­lices hands, it is the blood of hun­dreds of women in this coun­try that are ig­nored, in­tim­i­dated, laughed at, un­der­mined, and pushed away when they ask for help to pro­tect them­selves.

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