Franco Debono lists areas for reform
Nationalist MP Franco Debono this evening continued to list the areas for reform in justice and home affairs as the House continued to debate a 24-point private member's motion which was presented last November.
Resuming a speech he started on Wednesday, Dr Debono said all the points in his motion involved major reforms.
He insisted that the working conditions of judges needed to be reviewed and retirement age needed to be raised. He felt the retirement age of judges should be raised to 68 from the current 65.
A review was needed on the method of appointment of the members of the Bench. At present, appointments depended solely on the justice minister. Was this wise in a situation where there should be separation between the judiciary and the executive? Most European countries had since introduced new systems and he felt Malta should explore the Scottish model where there was a Judicial Appointments Committee which gave the names of prospective judges and carried out a form of hearing of the prospective judges, although the Executive eventually made the appointment.
He also felt that the number of years of experience necessary for the appointment of judges should be raised because wisdom was an essential element of the work of judges.
He was pleased that work by the new justice minister, in which he was also involved, was making progress in the conditions of judges, which also included a better pay packet and support structure.
He expressed confidence in the current Chief Justice and said things were much better than the time when the Chief Justice and the Attorney General were too close to each other.
A review was needed, Dr Debono said, of how cases were assigned. Specialisation was increasingly vital and judges and magistrates should be assigned to the areas they were most familiar with. That was not always the case in the past few years, although matters appeared to be changing.
Another review was needed of the impeachment procedure. Was the current situation good enough? Coupled to that, was the Commission for the Administration of Justice effective enough for the enforcement of discipline particularly in cases which were not serious enough to merit impeachment? Should the commission continue to be presided by the President. He did not think so.
The time had also come, Dr Debono said, to review the procedures of the Family Court particularly compulsory mediation. In his view, mediation work should be done by the judges, backed by a proper system. Judges had everything that was necessary, including knowledge of the law and wisdom to do this work.
There was also need to continue to reform the police force. He noted that timesofmalta.com was reporting how a person had been awarded compensation after having been shot by a policeman in 1995. It transpired that the policemen had not been adequately trained. He was suggesting the creation of a Task Force for a stock-taking of the Force followed by a proper strategy for growth, anticipating rather than reacting to events and requirements.
Such growth and development was also needed for the forensics laboratory. With some work, such as DNA profiling, having been subcontracted to a private company, he asked if there was any law which regulated the possession of sensitive personal information by such a company.
He was also of the view that scene of crime officers should be independent of the police.
Turning to the prisons, Dr Debono regretted that structures were still not in place to grant prisoners the parole which they were entitled for according to law. There should be classification of prisoners and the prisons needed to become a true correctional facility. There needed to be more warders and they needed to have better working conditions.
Dr Debono reiterated his call for modernisation and consolidation of the drug laws and the setting up of a Drugs Court. He said he had reservations about amendments presented by former minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici, without consultation with the parliamentary group.
In his speech Dr Debono reiterated that this motion - presented on November 8 - should have been moved for debate before the Opposition's motion of censure, presented a month later. It should certainly have been put on the agenda of the House before ministerial responsibilities for justice and home affairs were split in January in the famous reshuffle from which the government had not yet recovered.
The debate was suspended at 9 p.m. with Dr Debono in possession.