The Malta Independent 19 April 2019, Friday

Minister’s husband files judicial protest after losing libel case on appeal

Wednesday, 20 March 2019, 11:09 Last update: about 29 days ago

Businessman Patrick Dalli has filed a judicial protest against the Minister for Justice, the Director General of Courts and the Attorney General, after his libel claim against Times of Malta journalist Caroline Muscat was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

Dalli, who is married to Social Dialogue Minister Helena Dalli, had sued Muscat for libel over a series of articles investigating irregularities in works carried out in Dalli’s property in Zejtun. In July last year the Court of Magistrates had condemned Muscat to pay a total of €10,000 in libel damages, but this judgment was overturned on appeal earlier this month.

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In the judicial protest, which was signed by lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo, Dalli attacked the reasoning used by the Court of Appeal, which he said, had gone beyond the facts of the case and which he claimed, breached his human rights. The court had used arguments which were “totally incorrect and surprising…passing comment on his economic liquidity,” he said. Not only were the negative comments made in this regard wrong but they had failed to take into account the assets which he had in properties and that which he was going to gain from the sale of properties.

He could never had received fitting treatment from a court that chose to comment on him the way the Court of Appeal did, he said, as it had included arguments which didn’t constitute the merits of the libel suits.

In addition to this, Dalli said that while he appreciated and insisted that there should be absolute freedom for journalists to report correctly, he could not accept being targeted by “venomous and untrue journalism” simply because he was married to an MP.

In the protested judgment, Mr Justice Anthony Ellul had praised the minister for accepting the criticism levelled at her without resorting to the courts. “[This is] a classical example where the libel laws were not used by a public person as a political weapon against freedom of expression, and it serves as an example.” But Dalli accused the Court of Appeal of “sarcastically and cynically” complimenting his wife for not coming to the court’s doorstep. The reasoning given in the judgments prejudiced his right to family life, he said.

The judicial protest asked the defendants to provide a legal remedy, in the absence of which they would be held liable in damages.

 

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