The Malta Independent 18 September 2019, Wednesday

Toni Abela blasted for causing delay to libel case while he was PL newspaper editor

Monday, 12 June 2017, 14:34 Last update: about 3 years ago

A Magistrate has rebuked Judge Toni Abela for having, before his appointment to the bench, greatly delayed a civil libel case, putting off sitting no less than 22 times over four-year period.

This happened when Abela was editor of the Labour Sunday newspaper KullHadd.

Dr Abela was sworn in as judge in November 2016, with Aleander Balzan taking over as editor of the newspaper.

The case was filed by pharmacist Roberta Messina over an article, published on 19 December 2012 titled ‘Tajba ghal tal-Qalba.’

The article referred to a number of appointments given to Messina and the remuneration she supposedly received for each post.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale found that, while the newspaper was correct regarding the appointments, the remuneration figures were greatly exaggerated.

The court also found that, contrary to what was implied in the article, Messina was not given her appointments because she lived in the same district as the health minister. In fact, she did not live in the same district. Nor was it true that the appointment had anything to do with the fact that she was the daughter of Health Commissioner Charles Messina.

During the proceedings, lawyer Toni Abela did not present any evidence, despite putting off the case numerous times, and only cross-examined the plaintiff twice. He had also pleaded fair comment.

Magistrate Depasquale said it was clear that the writer intended to harm Messina’s reputation. As such he ordered the editor to pay her €4,000 in damages, with the court saying the amount reflected the delays caused to the case.

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