The Malta Independent 11 December 2017, Monday

PM did nothing wrong by updating public on Daphne’s murder suspects arrest – Kevin Aquilina

Helena Grech Tuesday, 5 December 2017, 07:55 Last update: about 5 days ago

Dean of the Law faculty at the University of Malta Kevin Aquilina believes that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat did nothing wrong when calling a press conference to inform the public that 10 suspects had been arrested in connection with the murder of slain journalist Daphne CaruanaGalizia.

“Muscat was harshly criticised about not keeping the public updated on the Caruana Galizia investigation. This time around, he simply updated the public that suspects had been arrested, but did not divulge any more details that could prejudice the case”.

ADVERTISEMENT

In comments to The Malta Independent, Aquilina also responded to questions about whether it was peculiar that Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar was not present at yesterday morning’s press conference addressed by the Prime Minister.

Aquilina explained that since the investigations are tied to laws surrounding secrecy in relation to magisterial inquiries, the commissioner would not have been in a position to answer any questions.

“He is precluded by law to divulge any details, so if he was present he would have had to repeatedly respond to questions by saying that the law precludes him from doing so."

Once the police arrest a suspect in connection with a crime, they have 48 hours to interrogate and must then choose whether they have enough evidence to arraign the suspects in court and file charges or to let them go.

Arguments have been raised that since the Prime Minister made the news of the arrest prior to the 48 hour time-window, this could prejudice the magisterial inquiry led by Anthony Vella or create undue pressure. Aquilina said that he “does not find this to be the case, because the PM was scant on details and the case is of national importance". On the contrary, Aquilina held that due to the limelight of this case and the lack of information provided before by the government, the Prime Minister "had a duty to update the people on their concerns without however prejudicing the course of justice.”

He went on to describe the process behind what could happen to the magisterial inquiry in light of the arrests. Aquilina said that should the police find enough evidence to file charges and arraign the suspects, the prosecuting inspector must then turn to the inquiring magistrate and ask him to conclude the magisterial inquiry so that the records of that inquiry could be filed in court before the magistrate hearing the compilation of evidence.

This would have to be co-ordinated with the Inquiring magistrate. Normally the inquiruing magistrate would conclude the inquiry on the basis of evidence received so far and any other pending evidence would have to be collected by the magistrate conducting the compilation of evidence.

Aquilina added that it would be premature to say what could happen to the inquiry at this stage, and that the Prime Minister was simply updating the public on a high profile case.

Yesterday evening in Parliament, the Prime Minister said that it would not have been possible to hold the press conference until the 48 hours are up, in view of the major operation involving helicopters and many disciplined forces officials. He said that in the age of social media, it would not have been possible to hold off the news.

 

  • don't miss