BBC presenter Chris Packham has been cleared of assault in a Malta court after his legal team showed a video proving he was innocent. Packham and his team were on the island making an independent documentary, Malta: Massacre on Migration, when they were approached by two men who began shoving them around.
"Whilst Chris and the team stood back, the police joined them," said Packham's agent. "Instead of intervening on behalf of the innocent parties, the police immediately took the side of the aggressors and manhandled Chris and other members of the team off the site."
The magistrate in the hearing, Joe Mifsud, had his "head in his hands" while watching the incident and strongly criticised the police for bringing the case. He reportedly suggested the footage be sent to an Italian comedy show.
"We had good evidence which showed that the boot was very firmly on the other foot - that we were the party that were abused in the situation," said Packham, 55, following the hearing.
"It serves to highlight what we came here to do, which was to throw attention on the fact that the Birds Directive - the legislation which is in place to protect birds all across Europe - is being abused here in Malta.
"And also to highlight how difficult it is for organisations like Birdlife Malta and the Committee Against Bird Slaughter who work in this environment where they are not supported by the police in cases like this."
Packham was gathering evidence of illegal shooting and trapping of migratory birds by hunters on Malta, where they are a delicacy. Unlike in other EU countries, quail and turtle doves can be hunted in spring by islanders, but conservationists claim other protected species are also killed.
Packham says Malta could make more money by arranging bird-watching trips for tourists rather than hunting them.
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