The Malta Independent 21 October 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Justice system – Innuendos and messages

Wednesday, 6 October 2021, 09:44 Last update: about 15 days ago

The start of October always brings with it a special focus on the justice system.

At the start of the forensic year, judges and magistrates attend a special Mass led by the Archbishop which is followed by an event in which the Chief Justice and the president of the Chamber of Advocates share their views on the way forward, pointing out issues which they feel ought to be addressed.

It is the one yearly occasion in which the Chief Justice speaks his mind openly on how the courts are operating, passes on his (usual) message to the politicians to do more in terms of provision of staff and space and, this year, defend the members of the judiciary against what he said was undue pressure before they issue rulings.

Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti mentioned both the traditional and social media as being used to attack judges and magistrates, but what he probably had in mind were posts by lawyers – who are themselves officers of the courts of law – on the eve of important decisions. It is inexcusable, he said, when there are ulterior motives behind comments that are made.

The Chief Justice should have been clearer in the message he wanted to put across. Sometimes, when such innuendos are used in official speeches, the persons they are directed to are too arrogant to understand that they are the target of such a message. Or at least they pretend not to have understood.

Equally important was the speech delivered by the president of the Chamber of Advocates, who concentrated mostly on professional secrecy. The chamber, Louis Degabriele said, cannot remain quiet when a lawyer is placed in a situation where he is required to break the law to conform with an order by an inquiring authority. Professional secrecy is not a privilege, but a right, he said.

Again, no specifics were mentioned.

It is a pity that in the two instances both the Chief Justice as well as the president of the Chamber of Advocates stopped short of being direct in their speeches.

Who was not afraid of speaking out loud and clear was Archbishop Charles Scicluna. In his homily, the Archbishop said judges and magistrates should be a ray of hope for a society that still believed in justice but had seen it trampled upon too many times.

The judiciary must continue to be an uncomfortable presence for people who think that they can do what they please with impunity, he charged. He was telling the judges and magistrates to be tough with offenders.

The past few years have unfortunately brought about a culture of impunity, fed from the corridors of power.

Nobody is above the law, and yet there are some people who believe that they could get away with anything and everything. This culture has sadly permeated down to all levels of society, with so many being emboldened to take the law into the own hands believing that, if those higher than them can get away scot free, they will remain unpunished too.

What the archbishop was saying is that judges and magistrates should act as a shield for society and, through their judgments, restore faith in a system that has been dragged through mud for a very long time.

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