The Malta Independent 23 May 2024, Thursday
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Budget 2024: Appointing more judges, magistrates and establishing a new Commercial Court

Monday, 30 October 2023, 21:05 Last update: about 8 months ago

The 2024 Budget came with a handful of announcements to strengthen the judicial sector.

 The Budget saw the announcement of plans to establish a Commercial Court, and for five new judges and six new magistrates to be appointed by the end of 2023. Another judge will be assigned to this Commercial Court alongside the rest of the necessary infrastructure.

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The Budget, which was read out by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, mentioned the construction of new courtrooms. A building shall be developed to host a number of courtrooms for the Criminal Court.

An additional courtroom will also be created at the disposal of different judges.

Furthermore, a “holistic reform” in the field of magisterial inquiries will also come about. In this regard, a call for new magistrates for magisterial inquiries will be made alongside a future public consultation on this subject. A similar reform will also be held with regards to family law to ensure that present laws and procedures properly reflect current realities.

Reforms in 2024 in restorative justice, probation and parole were also mentioned with the scope of breaking crime rings and reducing the number of overall victims. Finally, a new law on electronic monitoring was also said to come to fruition in the future.

Referencing the Police Force, the minister announced a new role within the Force shall be instated: Police Patrol and Community Support Officer (PCSO). This role will serve as a link between the general public, neighbourhood watches, the police, and other strategic partners predominantly located in “the most challenging areas” in terms of enforcement. These officers will serve as “continuous highly visible patrols” and will see to better regulate these areas by taking action when necessary and by collecting information.

Better working conditions and the establishment of more rights were also laid out for workers within the security sector.

Additionally, a specialized Roads Policing squad will be set up within the Police Force with the aim of assisting in maintaining road safety as well as reducing delays incurred when reopening roads following a road accident.

The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) will be the beneficiaries of continued investment according to the Budget. Two projects dedicated to the AFM will be developed through a collective investment of €12 million.

A new anti-seismic operating centre will be built inside the Luqa Military Base. Secondly, a hangar will be constructed to host the Armed Forces’ air fleet inside the Malta International Airport.

The Civil Protection Department have been assigned an additional 18 vehicles alongside the renovation and construction of existing and new stations respectively. The investment into 18 vehicles shall be include two industrial fire engines, four domestic fire engines, two hazmat vehicles for biochemical incidents, and 10 small vehicles dedicated for combating grass fires.

Renovations will be carried out to the CPD’s existing stations while the construction of additional stations was also mentioned. Human resources within the Civil Protection Department were declared to strengthen. The renovation of existing buildings was also announced for correctional systems.

Malta’s first rehabilitation centre for prisoners will also be developed in the future. By partnering with the organisations RISE and mid-Dlam għad-Dawl, two half-way houses are planned to aid the reintegration of prisoners with concluded prison sentences back into society.

A pilot project carried out by LESA will be carried out through an investment in camera systems. These camera systems are to be observed through the agency’s control rooms to deter and call for action upon observed criminal acts. This pilot project shall be carried out in the localities of St. Julian’s (including Paceville), St. Paul’s Bay, Marsa, and Paola.

The national hotline for victims of crime was announced to become a 24-hour service; suspected victims of crime will be able to call the number 116 006 for assistance at any time.

To aid potential victims of domestic violence, the introduction of panic alarms was brought forward in this year’s budget. Through these panic alarms, potential victims may press a button to send an immediate notice to the Police Force’s emergency system for instant information to be given. It was said that “immediate action” should follow this procedure.

With regards to foreign workers, it has been announced that the renewal of single work permits should be less expensive than bringing in new workers. Additionally, a statement was made for foreign workers to only be called upon “when truly needed”.

Making a reference to immigration, the Minister stated that while respecting dignity, “everyone must respect our society”. It was said that for those who did not follow this, the government did not shy away from deporting hundreds of foreigners.

Temping agencies were announced to require licensing and for the principle of “equal pay for equal jobs” to be enshrined for temporary workers. Unlicensed agencies will not be allowed to bring in more foreign workers from outside the European Union. The Minister stated that this will be enforced through an incoming regulation on outsourcing and temping agencies.

In order to increase employer transparency and accountability, workers are to receive their salaries through established bank accounts; this should also prevent exploitation, the minister said.

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana also mentioned an ongoing study on wage regulation orders to analyse the revisions and harmonisations of WROs with the scope of removing all anomaly entitlements that have existed in certain entitlements with regards to sick leave, amongst others.

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