Springwatch's Chris Packham cleared of Malta assault charge

Image source, PA
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The BBC wildlife presenter said he was charged after he and TV crew were set upon by two men

TV presenter Chris Packham has been cleared of assault during filming for a documentary on illegal bird trapping on the island of Gozo.

Packham, 55, appeared in a Maltese court following an incident on the Mediterranean island on Tuesday.

He was filming on the roadside when two men began "shoving" him and his crew, according to his agent.

The campaigner, who is critical of bird hunting in Malta, was filming an independent programme.

After the hearing, Packham said: "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.

"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."

Image source, YouTube/Chris G Packham
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Chris Packham and his team presented footage to the court
Image source, YouTube/Chris G Packham
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In it, he says they were told to stop filming
Image source, YouTube/Chris G Packham
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His crew replied they knew what they were allowed to film

He said magistrate Joe Mifsud had his "head in his hands" watching undercover footage his team presented to the court, adding: "He even suggested that our footage should be sent to an Italian comedy channel."

The whole saga had been "time-wasting, money-wasting and intimidation", Packham said.

His producer Ruth Peacey said: "This morning has gone to show what evidence can do in the face of lies."

'Innocent parties'

Packham had earlier posted a video saying he had been charged with "using force against any person, with an intent to insult, annoy or hurt them".

Packham's agent said he and his team were shouted at and shoved by two men who drove up to them during filming for a documentary called Malta: Massacre on Migration.

It follows a six-part series of the same name Packham presented on YouTube in 2014.

"Whilst Chris and the team stood back, the police joined them," the agent said. "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."

Maltese police have been contacted by the BBC for comment.

Image source, @ChrisGPackham
Image caption,
Packham posted an online video saying he had been accused of "using force"

Packham said that, just hours before the incident, he had called police after seeing what he thought was a cage full of birds, including what he believed to be some protected species.

The presenter, from Marchwood near Southampton, tweeted alongside his video: "Malta! You point out suspected criminals to the police ... and you end up in court!"

Packham has long argued that Maltese authorities have failed to prevent large-scale illegal shooting of migratory birds by hunters.

It remains a controversial issue in the country, where bird-hunting is seen as part of Malta's tradition for many locals.

European Union restrictions on the hunting of birds make two exceptions for Malta - allowing people to hunt turtle doves and quail in the spring, under strict regulations.

But conservationists say the hunting season is abused by some through the illegal shooting of other protected species.

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