Letter to the Commissioner of Police to amend GHQ Circular re Beard
The Commissioner of Police
Police General Headquarters,
Date: 20th September 2021
Subject: Request to repeal section ‘Beards’ of GHQ Circular 35/16 entitled Personal Appearance – Male Members in Uniform or in Plain Clothes – Facial Hair
The Malta Police Force, is mostly regulated by the provisions of Chapter 164 (Police Act) of the Laws of Malta. The Act also describes that ‘there shall be a Commissioner of Police who shall be commissioned for leading and guiding the Force, as well as regulating the appointment, duties and discipline of the Force’[i].
The Act goes further and illustrates that ‘notwithstanding any other provision of any law, regulation or order, the appointment of all police officers shall be subject to such conditions, requirements and standards as the Minister may prescribe by this Act or by regulations or orders made under this Act[ii].
Furthermore, to protect the legitimacy of the duties performed and orders obeyed by members of the Force, the Act provided that ‘An order given to a member of the Force by the lawful superior of that member shall be deemed to be lawful, unless it is manifestly contrary to an express provision of law or a Court order[iii].’
The Police Act explains that ‘Any member of the Force who commits any of the offences set out in the Second Schedule shall be charged with an offence against discipline[iv].’
In Schedule II of the Police Act, we find the relative legal provision related to offences for this particular subject ‘Beard’ as named in the quoted GHQ Circular, under the uncleanliness side-title;
‘’Uncleanliness, that is to say, if a member of the Force while on duty or while off duty in uniform in a public place is unshaven, or improperly dressed, or is dirty or untidy in his person, clothing or equipment.’’
If we analyse the elements of this provision, the following emerge (which are of interest to the subject);
- A member of the Force whilst on duty or off duty
- In uniform
- In a public place
- Is unshaven
The Police Act, does not provide for any derogation, addition or subtraction to it by the Commissioner of Police. The Commissioner, like everyone must abide with the legislation, enacted by the President of Malta, after it passed the legislative process.
GHQ Circular 36/16 (there seems to be no others previous to this on the matter) dictates under the usual threat of Disciplinary action that;
‘’Beards, goatees and goatee variations (including what is known a ‘soul patch’) are not to be worn.
The only exceptions allowed to the above is because of certified medical conditions by the Police Medial officer or in case of designated plain clothes officers who are specifically tasked by their respective Superintendent for specific operations.’’
Seems that in this case, the principle ‘Ubi lex voluit dixit, Ubi noluit tacuit’ (when the law wills, it speaks, when it does not, it is silent) has not been adopted by the Malta Police Force, and the Commissioner of Police turned legislator and added what the law did not want, rendering the position in ultra vires.
In view of the above, the Malta Police Union is considering that the provisions of GHQ Circular 35/16 dated 19th September 2016 is contrary to an express provision of the Act and therefore deemed unlawful with regards to members of the Force in plain clothes, either posted or detailed.
To this effect, we request that the Malta Police Force aligns its policies within the parameters of the Law, and also ensures that all members, or no one in uniform sports a beard since the law does not give any discretion to the Commissioner, and the granting of such is discriminatory towards others who are not granted this ‘permit’.
You may appreciate that there is no much room for discussion in this issue as we cannot agree differently from a legal provision, since there is no possible or probable derogation to it.
Whilst hoping that this matter is resolved internally without unnecessary delays,
I send you the best regards of the Executive Committee,
[i] Article 6(1) of Chapter 164.
[ii] Article 8(1) of Chapter 164.
[iii] Article 10(2) of Chapter 164.
[iv] Article 24(1) of Chapter 164.