“A coward’s mentality” is how Magistrate Ian Farrugia described the authorities’ inertia towards noise pollution from St Julian’s entertainment establishments.
He made the strongly-worded statement while presiding over a case filed against the operators of various Paceville establishments accused of generating noise pollution to the detriment of residents.
Magistrate Farrugia appealed directly to the Prime Minister to get his ministries together to solve the problem.
The authorities, he added, were instead wasting time on reports and studies, dumping the responsibility on the courts instead of taking action themselves. He ordered the court sitting minutes to be sent directly to the Prime Minister, to the Home Affairs Minister, the Justice Minister and the Police Commissioner.
Magistrate Farrugia said he had been presiding over the St Julian’s district sittings for the past four years, noting the court was inundated with cases of noise pollution.
“Instead of taking swift and effective action as dictated by law, many entities instead preferred to waste time on studies and reports, allowing the situation to deteriorate to the point where the issue is dropped into the court’s lap… this is, in the court’s opinion, a coward’s mentality,” he said.
The responsibility lay in the hands of the authorities concerned, who should enforce the law and act in an immediate and effective manner, the magistrate added. “If they did so, a substantial number of the St Julian’s district cases would be eliminated.”
Magistrate Farrugia said the court was sending the minutes of the sitting directly to the Prime Minister not because it expected him to solve these issues but so that he could communicate the court’s message to the ministries concerned.
He urged the ministries to put their heads together and make a collective effort to source real solutions for the noise pollution problem plaguing St Julian’s and Paceville residents.
“Maybe the residents will, eventually, find the peace they deserve while striking a balance between the residents’ interests and the interests of the people running the commercial establishments,” Magistrate Farrugia said.
During the sitting, Joseph Deguara, the operator of the Beach Garden Hotel, part of the Villa Rosa complex, was charged with organising a commercial event in an urban zone and allowing amplified music to be played between 11pm and 9am, causing a nuisance to residents.
The case dates to August of last year. Eden Leisure group chairman Ian De Cesare and Intercontinental Malta director of sales Jesmond Debono also faced similar charges, after residents complained of the noise pollution generated by Paranga restaurant, which forms part of Intercontinental Hotel’s beach club at St George’s Bay.
Magistrate Farrugia noted that the Intercontinental and Paranga establishments seemed to have since brought themselves in line. The problem, however, persists with the Beach Garden Hotel.
The cases are still pending.
What does noise pollution have to do with court delays?
Magistrate Ian Farrugia makes a pertinent point when he notes that the St Julian’s district sittings are inundated with cases related to noise pollution.
He argues the overload on the court can be alleviated if appropriate measures are taken by the authorities to prevent these issues from even reaching the courtroom.
But his reflections are not the first to identify noise pollution as one of the time-wasters of the judicial system.
The Bonello Commission, which was tasked with preparing a report on judicial reform, had in 2013 noted the problem and even proposed a practical solution to avert noise pollution from entertainment establishments.
The Commission said every time a court case was filed over noise pollution cases from bars and entertainment outlets, the court had to nominate an expert to measure decibel levels. This, the Commission noted, was creating a financial burden on public funds.
To avoid all this, the Commission recommended that bar licences be issued with a condition that a decibel meter be installed. In this way, if the noise level in the bar exceeded the legal limits, the meter would automatically shut down the music system.
The recommendation does not seem to have been taken on board and it has been left to an exasperated magistrate to voice the frustration of residents. Will anyone listen?
Source: Times of Malta (11th July 2016)