Think justice exists in Malta? Think again!

The justice system is the only mechanism humankind developed to fight the curse of the fifth deadly sin – wrath. If it doesn’t work, we don’t just lose the system. We lose any attempt at democracy.

I

When Charlemagne set up the roots of the modern legal system, he had no idea what it would evolve into. Today, people can air their grievances and have their cases heard. Before this, mob rule was the order of the day. Life in the Roman Empire is the most famous example of a forum where the man with the best argument, loudest voice or deepest pockets won.

The system has been refined over the centuries resulting in what we have today. The requirements are simple:

  • You must be able to report grievances in a simple way to an impartial investigative service, i.e., not connected to your case. This is crucial because eliminating this bias is one of the cornerstones of the system. A police force provides this. They are independent of a case, they can investigate, and present their findings. With a biased police force, it would be useless to report any grievance.

Maybe, just maybe, they do their job properly.

But how would I know?

  • An impartial prosecutory service, i.e., also not connected to the case, or to the investigators. This is the judiciary. A judge is independent of the case, can hear the evidence brought by the police, can hear the defence and can judge. With a biased judiciary, it would be pointless to take a case to court.

Maybe, just maybe, it would do its job.

But how would I know?

What if I have an issue with the Prime Minister of Malta?

II

In Malta, the Prime Minister appoints the Police Commissioner. The police are an extension of the Prime Minister’s office. If I’m ever investigated, it is possible the police officer who speaks to me is completely unbiased. But he takes the case to court on the say-so of his Commissioner. The Prime Minister may tell the Commissioner to hold off on this.

Which means I no longer have justice.

But let’s say I trust the police.

Let’s assume I manage to take a case to court.

Depending on the severity of my case, it’ll be in an inferior court1. This means a magistrate hears my case. In one of the superior courts1, a judge hears my case.

The Prime Minister appoints magistrates. They are directly indebted to him for their cushy job. More so, if they don’t have the right experience for the job.

Maybe, just maybe, the magistrate who hears my case is completely unbiased.

But how would I know?

In Malta, without an independent court, how can we have justice?

At least the Prime Minister doesn’t appoint judges because the President appoints them. But the President only does so “on the advice of the Prime Minister”. So the Prime Minister appoints them.

Maybe, just maybe, the judge who hears my case is completely unbiased.

But how would I know?

III

Just to sum up, in Malta:

  • I have no way of knowing if the police are independent from the government.
  • I have no way of knowing if magistrates are independent from the government.
  • I have no way of knowing if judges are independent from the government.

It is clear the laws and procedures do not apply to all people in Malta.

So where’s the justice in this system?

Where’s the justice in the Maltese justice system?

Being able to apply the laws and procedures equally is ‘the rule of law’2.

There cannot be justice in Malta for as long as the Prime Minister appoints the Police Commissioner. There cannot be justice in Malta at all for as long as the Prime Minister appoints the judiciary.

Angelo Gafa, current Police Commissioner of Malta

Suggesting we cannot solve the issue, or should confuse this with other issues3, misses the point.

No less a figure than Giovanni Bonello, former judge in the European Court of Human Rights stated:

A country cannot claim to follow the rule of law when all the prosecuting authorities are controlled and muzzled, when the judiciary is packed with party inepts, when the police force employs convicted criminals, when impunity is guaranteed for anyone on the right side of the political fence, when court-certified felons are promoted, when prosecutions are sabotaged and when those who try to follow up political corruption are battered.4

Giovanni Bonello, former judge in the European Court of Human Rights

Without justice, there is no democracy.

I’ve already explained how the lack of a free press means we don’t have a democracy in Malta. Unless that changes, and unless we have a proper justice system, we cannot claim Malta is democratic.

This has to change.

Share this with someone who thinks the Justice system works well in Malta!

References

  1. The Courts; The Judiciary of Malta; (Retrieved 2017-11-24) [][]
  2. Democracy; Wikipedia; 2017-11-24
  3. Will the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia lead to wholesale institutional reform in Malta?; Pace Roderick; London School of Economics and Political Science; 2017-11-07
  4. How would experts reform the Constitution?; Manduca, Anthony; The Times of Malta; 2017-11-07

All references were valid and correct when this article was published. Changes to referenced websites or web pages may render some references invalid. If this is the case, please leave a comment below.

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