Parliament discusses amendment in criminal code to address miscarriage of justice
Parliament yesterday discussed the amendments in the criminal code proposed by Dr Jason Azzopardi which propose the extension of the right of persons who were tried by jury to request the Court of Criminal Appeal to reinvestigate the case, to those convicted by the Court of Magistrates.
Dr Azzopardi said that according to academic studies, in the USA, 5% of the prisoners in jail are believed to be innocent.
He explained that in the early 1970s, the Maltese courts would hear 150 trials by jury each year because most cases which would cause the accused more than two years in prison, ended in a trial by jury. Nowadays, the average is 15 trials by jury each year. Dr Azzopardi said that today, the court of Magistrates can land anyone in jail for up to 12 years.
A case heavily covered by the media was that of Emanuel Camilleri. He had spent over 400 days in prison following a court case which found him guilty of abusing his daughter.
It was later discovered that the daughter had lied about the abuse, and in a testimony she gave she said that she had been pressured by her mother. Dr Azzopardi had argued that the government’s procrastination to discuss his motion was preventing justice from being served.
“This law is about extending an existing right available to those who suffer a miscarriage of justice following a trial by jury to those suffering the same miscarriage of justice after the sentence handed by the court of magistrates.
“There is no progressive or liberal way to look at this. There is no greater right than freedom. And there is no greater injustice than that coming from justice itself.”
Minister of Justice Owen Bonnici, replied by saying that had the government announced the same proposals as the Opposition; they would have been severely criticized by their counterparts for attempting to give the prime minister with more power of criminal legislation.
Dr Bonnici also said that remedies already exist for the extra ordinary situation Dr Azzopardi spoke about, pointing toward the constitutional court as an example.