New Bill to give sus­pects the right to have lawyers present dur­ing po­lice in­ter­ro­ga­tion

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Owen Bon­nici yesterday launched a Bill aimed at strength­en­ing pro­ce­dural rights, “by grant­ing the right to a pri­vate lawyer in sit­u­a­tions where sus­pects are most vul­ner­a­ble”.

He was speak­ing at the Min­istry for Jus­tice in Val­letta and ex­plained that this bill, called An Act to pro­vide for le­gal as­sis­tance dur­ing de­ten­tion and other rights for ar­rested per­sons, is the trans­po­si­tion of a Euro­pean direc­tive re­gard­ing hav­ing ac­cess to a lawyer dur­ing crim­i­nal pro­ce­dures and dur­ing ar­rest war­rant pro­ce­dures. While part of the pro­vi­sions al­ready form part of Mal­tese law, through this bill, a guar­an­tee for so­cial jus­tice con­tin­ues to be strength­ened, the Min­is­ter said.

The Direc­tive and bill tackle the rights of three cat­e­gories of per­sons: those un­der ar­rest yet have not yet been brought be­fore the courts or any other ju­di­cial author­ity; those ac­cused of a crim­i­nal of­fence; and per­sons who are sub­ject to a Euro­pean Ar­rest War­rant pro­ce­dures.

Min­is­ter Bon­nici ex­plained that the right for ac­cess to a lawyer means that prior to an in­ter­ro­ga­tion, the sus­pect has the right to know the ac­cu­sa­tions that sur­round the sus­pect’s in­ter­ro­ga­tion, that the sus­pect meet with lawyer and com­mu­ni­cate with the ad­vo­cate in pri­vate, and that the lawyer have the right to be present and par­tic­i­pate ef­fec­tively dur­ing the in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

Presently, one has the right to speak to an ad­vo­cate be­fore an in­ter­ro­ga­tion, yet the lawyer can­not be present dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion. If the in­di­vid­ual re­nounces this right, it would need to be recorded.

He said that gov­ern­ment rec­om­mends this to be the first bill dis­cussed in Par­lia­ment once ses­sions be­gin.

The At­tor­ney Gen­eral, Peter Grech, was also present, and said that dur­ing the in­ter­ro­ga­tion the law says that first the po­lice must ques­tion the sus­pect, and the lawyer would be present. Af­ter the first phase of the in­ter­ro­ga­tion ends, only then will the lawyer be able to ask ques­tions and make re­marks. Dr Grech said that in Con­ti­nen­tal coun­tries, like Italy, the right for a lawyer to be present dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion has been in place for a long time.

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