Teacher’s presidential pardon a first for family case
The presidential pardon granted to a woman jailed for blocking her ex-husband’s access to their son was the first involving a family court case.
In five years, 43 presidential pardons were granted, according to the Justice Ministry, and the woman’s case was the only one dealing with a prison term handed down by the Family Court.
Two weeks ago the woman, a teacher who was not named by The Times to protect her family’s privacy, walked out of prison after serving 20 days of her three-month jail term.
The jailed mother’s case caused a public outcry and the request for pardon submitted by her lawyer to President George Abela was dealt with promptly.
In a couple of days the Cabinet recommended a pardon and Dr Abela first talked to the woman’s son before signing a writ endorsing the decision.
But presidential pardons are not easily handed down.
Figures submitted in Parliament this week showed that in five years only 43 applications from 505 were accepted. This equated to eight per cent of all applications.
The Justice Ministry said a majority of cases were related to court fines imposed for VAT infringements.
presidential pardons given in five years
“In all such cases a recommendation for a presidential pardon is issued after consultation with various entities including the VAT commissioner,” the ministry said.
The more sensitive cases involving drugs are specifically referred to Cabinet by the Justice Minister for “collegial consideration”.
Since March 2008 there were three cases involving drugs that were referred to Cabinet. Two were positively considered and one was refused. The pardons were granted in May 2008 and March 2009.
The Justice Ministry said in both cases the Court of Appeal had recommended the accused be imprisoned for one week instead of the statutory six months and conditionally discharged for three years.
“In both cases, the advice of the Attorney General was to accept the Court of Appeal’s recommendation and the Cabinet advised the President accordingly,” the ministry said.
The Constitution gives the President the power to “grant to any person concerned in or convicted of any offence a pardon”. The request for the pardon first goes to the Justice Minister and is normally referred to Cabinet after the Attorney General is asked for advice.
The Justice Minister and in some cases Cabinet then advises the President whether or not to sign the writ.
Mercy from Head of State
The President has the prerogative to show mercy, according to Article 93 of the Constitution. It gives the President power to grant any person convicted of an offence a pardon, “either free or subject to lawful conditions”.
The President can also grant a convicted individual respite, “either indefinite or for a specified period” from the execution of any court sentence or substitute a punishment with a less severe form.
The President can also cancel all or part of any penalty owed to the State.