New judge points to high rate of decided cases by the judiciary
Call for improved security at the law courts
Madame Justice Jacqueline Padovani in her first sitting as a judge today highlighted the high rate of decided cases by the members of the judiciary.
Judge Padovani, who was the first woman to be appointed a magistrate 21 years ago, thanked all those people who supported her during her career including her family, friends, colleagues and teachers.
Recently, she said, the law courts and the judiciary had been criticised in the media. Freedom of expression was an important value, however, she said, this had to be based on truth and facts.
Some comments and articles led the public to unfairly believe that members of the judiciary were doing nothing and that the outcome of their judgements was wrong. However, facts proved otherwise.
In 2010 a total of 22,700 cases had been filed in court and 21,005 were decided. In 2011 22,000 were filed and 21,600 decided. This year, until March, 7,178 cases were filed and 7,400 decided – more than those filed.
This showed that judges and magistrates were striving to do their best, as was their duty.
However, Madame Justice Padovani said, this did not mean that there were no problems, including backlogs. But the will to work was there despite the lack of resources, halls and staff.
She went on to share a few thoughts on how the system could be improved.
The duty magistrate of the day should be assigned a clerk to handle the work that came in, such as inquiries; there should be a study on the system in which court documents were sent from the law courts to the AG's office. Documents were spending too much time at the AG with an average ratio of six weeks at the AG and four weeks in court.
She pointed out the lack of resources at the AG's office, adding that, ideally, there should be an AG lawyer in all halls where there were compilations of evidence going on.
Cases such as theft, where there was no violence, need not require a magisterial inquiry – this would free up funds to appoint more staff.
She said that every judge and magistrate should have a judicial assistant to help him/her.
Fines, especially for contraventions, should be revised with some no longer serving as a deterrent.
Even simple things, like installing a public address system at the law courts would save time between cases, she said.
Madame Justice Padovani said it was time to address the issue of security at the law courts, adding that the recent stabbing incident at the Gozo courts should not happen again. The Bench, she said, should put together proposals to ensure that all parties were protected while carrying out their duties.
She added that when recommendations were drawn up to improve the system, judges and magistrates ought to be consulted, as they had a lot to contribute.
During his address Reuben Balzan, president of the Chamber of Advocates, also spoke about the way the media criticised the judiciary saying that some reports were aimed at sensationalism.
While stressing that it was the media's right and role to draw attention to certain issues, one had to ensure that this did not give the unjustified impression that the judiciary was all to blame.
He again called on cooperation among all members of the judiciary to allocate time slots to cases.