Chief Jus­tice speaks out against amnesties

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - ■ Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

Chief Jus­tice Sil­vio Camil­leri said that amnesty to pris­on­ers con­victed of a crime are seen by so­ci­ety as a re­ward to peo­ple who break the law.

An amnesty means for­give­ness for any law-break­ing ac­tiv­ity, he said, adding that those who are re­spect­ful of the law feel ag­gra­vated as they see those who broke the law ef­fec­tively being re­warded.

Ad­dress­ing a cer­e­mony to open the foren­sic year, Chief Jus­tice Camil­leri ex­plained that this is cre­at­ing a sense of in­jus­tice.

This, he said, re­sults in en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers not to con­form with the law due to pos­si­ble fu­ture amnesty. “An­other con­se­quence is that the courts’ le­git­i­macy in the eyes of the pub­lic, as the ad­min­is­tra­tors of jus­tice, is put into ques­tion, as the law does not re­main equal for every­one.”

He urged se­ri­ous re­flec­tion re­gard­ing the con­se­quences of grant­ing amnesty.

The Chief Jus­tice might have been hint­ing, through the afore­men­tioned part of his speech, at the re­cent amnesty given to peo­ple who broke plan­ning laws by car­ry­ing out il­le­gal de­vel­op­ment.

The Chief Jus­tice also said that the time has come to con­sider mov­ing the courts to a larger build­ing. “It seems that an in­crease in the num­ber of mem­bers of the ju­di­ciary is in­evitable; how­ever, this can­not oc­cur be­fore there are more court rooms. Right now, struc­tural mod­i­fi­ca­tions are oc­cur­ring to cre­ate three more halls, but the time will come where this would no longer be pos­si­ble.”

“Even to­day, the halls are claus­tro­pho­bic, the offices are small, there is only a small amount of space for the pub­lic.”

Turn­ing to the Ju­ve­nile Court, housed at the Santa Ven­era So­cial Work Cen­tre, he said that lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems ex­ist, and urged that it be moved to a build­ing closer to the main courts in Val­letta.

Mr Jus­tice Camil­leri also spoke about the courts being in the pub­lic eye, “nor­mally in a bad way.”

“The courts give thou­sands of judge­ments through­out the year, yet it is that one that, for good rea­son or not, makes a lot of noise and ends up on the front pages. It is good that the courts are scru­ti­nised; how­ever, many a time the courts are tar­geted by crit­i­cism by those who are not well in­formed of the facts and cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing a case.”

Turn­ing to the num­ber of judges and mag­is­trates, he said that the num­ber in Malta is less than the me­dian amount of coun­tries in the EU. He said that the ex­ec­u­tive over the years has in­creased the num­ber of mem­bers of the ju­di­ciary on the is­lands, “yet it is clear that this is not enough to keep up with the amount of new laws, rights, etc, being cre­ated.”

The Chief Jus­tice also men­tioned the re­cent re­forms re­gard­ing the Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Jus­tice. He said that one could have gone fur­ther with the re­forms, re­fer­ring to the ap­point­ments of mem­bers of the ju­di­ciary, but it “seems that po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus went as far as it could.”

He touched upon me­di­a­tion as an al­ter­na­tive to legal ac­tion. “I be­lieve this has the po­ten­tial to re­duce the de­lays ex­pe­ri­enced in court.” Re­cently, a white pa­per on me­di­a­tion, a prac­tice that seeks to set­tle dis­putes out­side of court in a less costly and more ef­fi­cient man­ner, was launched.

Ju­di­ciary can­di­dates must be hon­est, in­de­pen­dent and ca­pa­ble of being im­par­tial

- George Hy­zler

Pres­i­dent of the Cham­ber of Ad­vo­cates George Hy­zler spoke about re­cent Con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments, re­gard­ing ap­point­ments to the ju­di­ciary. He praised the PN and PL for com­ing to­gether and find­ing agree­ment, but the law for not go­ing far enough. He said the Cham­ber of Ad­vo­cates has long said that the ex­ec­u­tive must be as dis­tant as pos­si­ble from such ap­point­ments.

“To­day, es­sen­tially we still have a sit­u­a­tion where the choice is one which is po­lit­i­cal. What changed, es­sen­tially, was that the Jus­tice Min­is­ter will have the seal of ap­proval from this in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tee, yet he would not be tied to some grad­u­a­tion of can­di­dates, or with some ex­pres­sion of pref­er­ence by the Com­mit­tee.” As re­ported yes­ter­day by The

Malta In­de­pen­dent, Dr Hy­zler used his speech to ad­dress this sit­u­a­tion.

He said that if the govern­ment de­cides to ig­nore the eval­u­a­tion by the Com­mit­tee, they would need to give an ex­pla­na­tion in Par­lia­ment.

He called this law a step in the right di­rec­tion, how­ever.

Can­di­dates, he said, must be hon­est, sta­ble, in­de­pen­dent, ca­pa­ble of being im­par­tial, and of good char­ac­ter.

He turned his gaze to the Lawyers Act, which has yet to be im­ple­mented.

“We have a sit­u­a­tion where the govern­ment is being spurred on by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the legal pro­fes­sion to pass a law to reg­u­late the very same pro­fes­sion. It is ironic that the re­quest for reg­u­lar­i­sa­tion is com­ing from such rep­re­sen­ta­tives, when one ex­pects that such a re­quest be made by the peo­ple’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives.”

He said that he suspects there are those who do not want such a law to be in­tro­duced.

Turn­ing to ef­fi­ciency in the courts, Dr Hy­zler said that more ex­pen­di­ture on in­fra­struc­ture, bet­ter man­age­ment of fa­cil­i­ties and an im­prove­ment in hu­man re­sources can help, “but so can a com­mit­ment by the ju­di­ciary to keep to case times and judge­ments being given on time.”

He said that the ex­per­i­ment of court at­tor­neys seems to have worked, yet he has reser­va­tions as to the trans­parency of how they are ap­pointed and their im­par­tial­ity. He rec­om­mended that the Com­mit­tee in charge of ju­di­cial ap­point­ments be ex­tended to in­clude the choice of Court At­tor­neys.

With re­gard to Court experts, he also said that a push must be made in or­der for a list of experts, along with their qual­i­fi­ca­tions, to be drawn up, open to scru­tiny, “and that mag­is­trates in par­tic­u­lar ap­point experts on the ba­sis of abil­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity more than on the ba­sis of try­ing to help them out.”

Pho­tos by James Bianchi

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.