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Court backlog under scrutiny

The Bench: International experts are carrying out an audit of the workings of the law courts to recommend ways of tackling the heavy backlog. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The Bench: International experts are carrying out an audit of the workings of the law courts to recommend ways of tackling the heavy backlog. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Court efficiency experts from the Council of Europe have urged the Justice Minister to identify the “real reason” behind the ever-growing backlog of cases.

Jacques Buhler, from the Council of Europe’s Commission for the Efficiency of Justice, told Carm Mifsud Bonnici earlier this week to look into the court’s organisation and case management.

Mr Buhler also pointed out that, rather than increasing permanent resources to deal with a backlog, the government could start a project to temporarily boost resources to reduce the backlog.

In 2008, Malta had asked the Council of Europe to carry out an independent audit of the workings at the law courts. The request was accepted a year later.

“It’s now time to start coming to a conclusion,” Dr Mifsud Bonnici told Mr Buhler and his team, after thanking them for agreeing to carry out the audit despite never having received similar requests before.

Mr Buhler said his team was analysing court statistics, with particular emphasis on the rate of incoming cases, the rate of decided cases and the average time taken for a case to be concluded. Lawyers and members of the judiciary are being consulted.

“If the number of incoming cases is doubling, it is not simply a question of doubling the resources. We have to study the real reason for the problem,” he said.

The ministry said that the recommendations, together with further consultations, will be included in a detailed document outlining the way forward.

Nationalist MP Franco Debono has presented a private motion outlining 22 areas which, he says, have been neglected in the area of justice and home affairs.

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