Appeals Court confirms that Naxxar grounds licensed for holding of trade fairs
The Court of Appeal has found that a decision of the Director of Commercial Services in the Trade Department to ignore a court judgment for the issue of a licence for the holding of a fair in the Naxxar Fair Grounds was a dangerous precedent which undermined the authority of the courts and the Rule of Law.
This decision was delivered by Mr Justice Raymond C Pace presiding over the Court of Appeal (in its inferior jurisdiction) in a case filed by Paul Abela and TFEA Ltd against the director.
The court heard that Mr Abela and the company had filed judicial action after the refusal of the director to issue a licence for the holding of trade fair in the Naxxar Trade Fair Grounds.
In 2010, following a previous application filed by Mr Abela and the company, the First Hall of the Civil Court had ordered the Director to consider the application for the licence to hold the trade fair.
The Director had subsequently refused to issue the licence and Mr Abela and the company appealed to the Licensing Appeals Board. In June of last year the Board had found in favour of Mr Abela and the company.
The Board found that the Naxxar Trade Fair Grounds were licensed premises for the holding of trade fairs. Mr Abela and the company's application for a licence to hold a fair had therefore been refused without valid reason at law.
On his part the Director submitted that he had discretionary powers to decide upon the issue of a licence after seeing what impact a licence could have on the environment and on the implementation of public policy. The Director submitted that the Central Malta Local Plan of 2006 had stipulated that in the event that the Trade Fair activity ceased to operate in Naxxar, then MEPA would not permit the continued use of this site as a trade fair.
Furthermore, the Trade Fair Grounds had been used as an electoral counting hall since the Local Plan was published, the Director had argued.
But the Appeals Board found that the Director was not entitled to deal with issues that were supposed to be regulated by MEPA. The Director was only supposed to consider aspects relating tot he site itself and not possible MEPA policy.
The Board then found in favour of Mr Abela and the company and annulled the Director's refusal to issue the licence.
The Director then appealled to the Court of Appeal. Mr Justice Raymond Pace ruled that the Trade Fair grounds were licenced for the holding of fairs. This fact had been recognised by the previous court judgment delivered in 2010.
The manner in which the Director had ignored the previous court judgment was a dangerous precedent which would undermine the authoritiy of the courts and the Rule of Law. No court could allow this to happen on the basis that this would erode the concept of democracy and the upholding of fundamental and ordinary rights.
The decsion of the Appeals Board was, the court said, correct, as it clearly resulted that the Trade Fair grounds were licenced. The fact that the grounds had been used for electoral purposes for some years was irrelevant.
The Director's appeal was dismissed and the decision of the Appeals Board was confirmed.