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?
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.