The Malta Independent 1 March 2021, Monday

Plans to expand law courts at pre-Planning Authority stage

Kevin Schembri Orland Monday, 22 February 2021, 08:33 Last update: about 7 days ago

Plans to expand the law courts by creating four new court halls and 25 offices in a separate building in Strait Street are still at the pre-Planning Authority stage, Frank Mercieca, the Court Services Agency CEO, told The Malta Independent

Back in November 2020, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis had announced that the extension would cost around €5 million. The building that will house the expansion is located on Strait Street, just behind the main building of the Courts of Justice and next to an existing extension of court bearing the name of ‘Sir Thomas Moore’.

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Mercieca explained that works in relation to the construction and finishing stages are expected to conclude by November 2023 and it is expected that the new halls will be in use by December 2023.

Prime Minister Robert Abela had said recently that the government intends to recruit four new judges and four new magistrates. It was unclear whether the government intends to increase the overall size of the judiciary, or if the new judges and magistrates will be recruited in order to replace those who have and are retiring in the coming years.

A spokesperson for the Justice Ministry, responding to question posed by this newsroom, said: “The newly appointed members of the judiciary shall not only fill the vacant places at present, but they shall also serve to increase the number of members sitting on the judicial bench. This will be the largest judicial complement in Malta’s history since becoming a Republic,” the spokesperson explained.

Increasing the number of judges and magistrates definitely one way of reducing the number of cases currently pending, however it is not the only way. In an interview with The Malta Independent back in October 2020, President of the Chamber of Advocates Louis de Gabriele had given some ideas of his own. To tackle the case loads in the district courts for example, he suggested decriminalising some issues dealt with in such courts, and creating Justices of the Peace to deal with them, similar to how parking violations are dealt with by a tribunal.

Asked whether the government is considering introducing anything along these lines, the Justice Ministry’s spokesperson said that while the government “believes that we need to look into all possible avenues to tackle the case loads, the Government is taking various decisions to ascertain that this is indeed done. Such examples are: the introduction of a revised Appeals system, the extension of the retirement age of the judiciary from 65 to 68 years wherever the member of the judiciary so decides, the addition of new members on the judicial bench and the expansion of the law courts as mentioned. The latter are only some of the many deliverables which this Government undertook, and or it has yet to undertake, to ensure that the courts are efficient and effective.”

 

 

 

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