The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

Depenalisation reform sees Justice Commissioners take on more workload in bid to improve court efficiency

Janet Fenech Wednesday, 21 July 2021, 16:26 Last update: about 14 days ago

To enable the courts to more efficiently tackle serious crimes, a reform has been announced that will see a number of “less serious” breaches of the law being handled by the Justice Commissioners.

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said that “less serious breaches of the law, like public indecency or arguments between people that do not greatly impact individuals or society as a whole, will still be considered a breach of law, but will now be depenalised”.

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This move will allow the courts to have more time to deal with more serious cases, such as economic crimes.

Currently, he said, there is a “bottleneck” in the Magisterial courts, and the Covid-19 situation added even more pressure to the backlog of cases due to less court sittings being held.

Zammit Lewis asked Law Commissioner Antonio Mizzi to study Malta’s criminal code, article 9, to identify these “less severe” breaches. The Justice Commissioners currently deal with crimes related to breaches related to the environment and Covid-19, among others.

Thus both Zammit Lewis and Mizzi believe that some crimes require greater attention, and that this depenalisation reform is a first step to help increase the efficiency in the Maltese law courts, which was an issue highlighted in the rule of law report published recently by the EU Commission.

Mizzi concluded that other reforms to tackle the root cause of criminality in Malta and Gozo are in the pipeline.

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