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No compulsory training for Malta's judiciary

Ministry downplays EU Scoreboard findings

Malta, Cyprus, Finland and Sweden are the only EU countries where magistrates and judges receive no compulsory training. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Malta, Cyprus, Finland and Sweden are the only EU countries where magistrates and judges receive no compulsory training. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Malta is among the only four EU member states where no compulsory training is given to members of judiciary, not even when they are appointed.

The comparative European Commission study – the 2016 Justice Scoreboard – notes that Malta, Cyprus, Finland and Sweden are the only EU countries where magistrates and judges receive no compulsory training.

It says that training is a necessary tool to sustain and improve the quality of judicial decisions that citizens deserve.

READ: EU scoreboard notes Malta has plenty of lawyers, not many judges

The study focuses on five areas: initial training, general in-service courses, specialised judicial functions, management and use of computer facilities.

While the Netherlands is the only EU member State to have compulsory training in all five areas, there is at least an obligation to receive initial training in 23 other countries. The UK was not included as no information was submitted.

Malta placed last, together with Cyprus and Slovakia in terms of training judges to communicate with parties and the press. No training at all is provided. When it came to participation in continuous training activities in either EU law or in the law of another member State, fewer than one of every five Maltese members of the judiciary took part. Overall, Malta ranked 21st in this indicator.

A Justice Ministry spokeswoman played down the findings when asked on the measures being taken to address them.

Noting that training for judges and magistrates was provided by a judicial studies committee chaired by Judge Michael Mallia, the spokeswoman pointed out that this operated at arms’ length from the government.

“Under the headship of Judge Mallia, training has been provided to the members of the judiciary on a regular basis with seminars on various legal topics held locally every two months,” she noted.

The committee was given training programmes by leading associations in Europe, such as the European Judicial Training Network and the Academy of European Law, as well by local entities, she added.

“Judges and magistrates are regularly sent abroad to attend seminars, so, if one were to consider local and foreign training, the schedule for judges and magistrates is quite intense,” the spokeswoman continued.

Acknowledging that participation in such programmes was not mandatory by law, she remarked that the judiciary was heeding the advice of both the committee and the Chief Justice to take part.

She noted that the Justice Scoreboard had also highlighted “a lot of positive news” that was testament to the success of the judicial reform carried out during this legislature. The spokeswoman noted that the average duration of court proceedings had been more than halved while the Administrative Review Tribunal had been ranked as the most efficient in the EU.

In November 2013, a commission headed by retired human rights judge Giovanni Bonello had submitted a set of 34 recommendations to the government as a basis for the judicial reform.

These included mandatory attendance for training provided by the JSC and treating any unjustified absence as a breach of the judicial code of ethics. However, this recommendation was not taken on board.

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