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1,800 signatures and counting for teachers' justice reform petition

The teachers’ union is calling on leaders to act and ensure that court proceedings do not continue to drag on for years. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The teachers’ union is calling on leaders to act and ensure that court proceedings do not continue to drag on for years. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

A petition by the teachers’ union calling for a more efficient justice system has been signed by over 1,800 people since its launch two weeks ago.

The Malta Union of Teachers is calling on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici to take the necessary action to ensure court proceedings did not continue to drag on for years.

In a statement this afternoon, the government said however that the reform in the justice sector was leaving the desired results.

The MUT's call comes after the case of a learning support assistant, Karen Mercieca, went on for five years. She was acquitted of charges of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl. The Attorney General has filed an appeal.

So far, 1,859 people have signed the online petition asking for “a proper reform of the Courts of Justice”.

“The union notes with a high degree of disappointment that the appeal has been put off once again by the judge, this time to January,” the MUT said in a statement.

It said Ms Mercieca’s case served as a clear example of the present situation in court, describing it as being insensitive towards citizens.

The union said it was unacceptable that in this country a person had to go through anxiety for years on end in a case that could have been over in less than a year.

It added that no amount of compensation could give back the time spent in court.

“While deferring cases may be natural and the order of the day for lawyers and people who are often involved in court proceedings, laypeople depending on a court decision to rebuild their life cannot be treated in the same manner,” the MUT said.

It has also written to Education and Employment Minister Evarist Bartolo and Dr Bonnici to intervene where possible to speed up matters.

The petition also calls for a more holistic approach in dealing with cases for the payment of damages. The MUT said those seeking compensation should not have to open “yet another new case to obtain justice”.

In its reply, the government said that the case had been deferred for judgement on October 27, 2015 and this was given 23 days later. The Attorney General appealed on December 10 and this was assigned for a decision in January 2017.

The government said that official statistics for the first six months of this year showed that the clearance rate had increased from 117 per cent to 127 per cent in the same period.

Delays were shorter and the backlog had 903 fewer cases.

MUT presented its petition to the Justice Minister today.

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