The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

Updated: PN proposes bill to set up authority to select members of the judiciary

Thursday, 11 February 2016, 14:15 Last update: about 5 years ago

The Nationalist Party, through shadow minister Jason Azzopardi, today presented a private member’s bill proposing the setting up of an authority which would be responsible for the selection of judges and magistrates.

The bill was presented by Dr Azzopardi to the House of Representatives' Clerk, in the presence of PN deputy leader Mario de Marco and Opposition Whip David Agius.

The authority, which the PN says should be composed of five members, should have the authority to submit recommendations to the Prime Minister for the appointment of the Chief Justice, judges, magistrates and the industrial tribunals.

It should also be responsible for nominating people to serve as legal aid lawyers, and judges and magistrates to serve on international courts or tribunals.

The authority, the bill adds, should have the responsibility to establish the criteria on which the appointments mention above should be given, including the experience needed.

The bill presented by Dr Azzopardi comes in the wake of the controversy that erupted last week when the government nominated two lawyers for the post of magistrates when these two do not satisfy the criteria enforced at present. One of them, Ingrid Zammit Young, withdrew her nomination while Dr Caroline Farrugia Frendo will be eventually appointed magistrate when the seven-year experience deadline is reached.

The appointments listed above should be open to calls for application, the bill states.

The authority should be made up of the Chief Justice as its president, the attorney general, the president of the Chamber of Advocates and one representative nominated by the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

Its term should be of four years and, apart from the chief justice and attorney general, the nominees can only serve for two terms.

Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government, Owen Bonnici reacted to the bill proposed by the opposition by saying that he always takes them "with a pinch of salt". 

The Minister pointed out that the opposition spent 25 years in government and never thought to change the system, but now because they are in the opposition, they suddenly want to change everything. He also spoke about how in the previous two electoral menifestos, a reform of the Justice System was never mentioned. Adding that one thing he did realise upon reading the proposed bill, was that PN were stepping away from the original proposals made by the Bonello Commission and are, instead, drifting towards the Chamber of Advocates' advice.

Minister Bonnici echoed what the PL said yesterday in a Press Release, saying that reforms are currently underway regardless of any proposals made by the opposition, in fact there are pressing issues which will be addressed - with the time it takes for a case to be concluded as a first priority - in the coming weeks. 

The Minister went on to categorically deny that the constitution was broken at any point, calling this "one of the many lies perpetuated by the PN". He refused allegations that Dr Zammit Young's father and him have any connections which led to the nominations, and also pointed out that, by the time Dr Farrugia Frendo will be appointed, she will have met the 7 year minimum warranted experience. 

Dr Bonnici also addressed the issues raised by the PN of the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Malta, Dr Kevin Aquilina, where it was said that Dr Aquilina presented a bill which lay on the Minister's desk for at least 17 months. The Minister said, thanking Dr Aquilina for translating the proposals into amendments, that he broke up the 450 amendments presented into smaller bills and it gradually working on the reforms so as not to cause too many waves in the Justice system at the same time. 

Photos by Jonathan Borg

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