The Malta Independent 21 September 2021, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Efficient courts? Read this and laugh

Saturday, 24 July 2021, 11:25 Last update: about 3 months ago

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis announced that certain petty crimes will be dealt with by the Justice Commissioners, rather than the Court of Magistrates. The move aims to increase efficiency at the Courts of Law by easing their caseload.

It is a positive move, one of a series of initiatives announced over the past few years to take our courts out of the Middle Ages and into the 21st century, but so much more needs to be done to reach that stage.

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Let us give you one example.

This week, one of our editors was summoned to testify in the compilation on a murder that took place in Gozo in 2018. The case is being heard at the Gozo courts, which meant that the editor had to travel all the way to Gozo, effectively missing an entire day of work at the newsroom.

The reason why he was summoned was that the suspect had allegedly, at one point, referred to a report published on our front page when speaking to a third party.

As a result, our editor was summoned by the prosecution as a witness. All that was asked of him was to confirm that the article in question was indeed published by this newsroom, where the photos had come from (this was clearly stated in the photo credits in the article) and what the report was about.

That’s it. That’s why one of our people had to waste a day travelling to Gozo and back. Ridiculous, is it not?

In an age of internet, email and video conferencing, one still has to appear physically before the courts to confirm such obvious things.

This was not the first time this has happened, although it was the first time we were summoned to Gozo.

There have been several instances over the past few months where we received similar summons. Each time, all that was asked of us was to confirm that the articles in question, taken directly from our own website or newspaper, had indeed been published by us!

A few months back, the same editor was summoned to testify in a civil case on the murder of Lino Cauchi in the 1980s. He was asked to produce a copy of all articles on the subject that had appeared in The Malta Independent.

The thing is, The Malta Independent did not even exist when the murder took place. In fact, the company was launched almost a decade later.

Yet we were still summoned to the courts and asked to do a time-consuming research exercise that could have easily been carried out by the parties involved in the case.

This is not the fault of the judges and magistrates, and it is not the fault of the prosecution either. The fault lies with our archaic court system.

While we will always collaborate with the courts, there are easier and more efficient ways in which we can do this. Surely, such trivial testimony can be given by video conference, or at least by means of an affidavit.

We call on the Justice Minister to take note of this absurd situation and keep it in mind when working on his next set of court efficiency measures.

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