The decision whether or not to publish the entire Egrant inquiry report rests solely with the Attorney General, the Times of Malta has been informed.

The Attorney General’s Office released the main conclusions of the 1,500-page inquiry report on Sunday morning and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat soon called a press conference to comment on the findings.

As the main conclusions were also circulated to the media, Attorney General Peter Grech announced he had accepted a request by the Prime Minister to have a copy of the entire report, adding Dr Muscat was the person who had originally asked for the inquiry.

This decision, though legitimate, raised eyebrows in various quarters which felt the report should be given a general release.

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia wrote to the Attorney General on Monday formally requesting a copy of the inquiry report.

He said he wanted to be on the same footing as the Prime Minister in terms of the political debate that was unfolding. Otherwise, he continued, the Opposition would be at a political disadvantage.

He must now also ensure he acts correctly with everyone

It could not be established by Tuesday whether his request had been accepted.

Criminal lawyers told the Times of Malta that by law, at this stage, it was only the Attorney General who had the right to decide whether or not to publish an inquiry report.

“Under normal circumstances, inquiries are not published, and they are rarely given to anyone before any charges are submitted in court,” the lawyers said.

On whether it was correct for the Attorney General to hand over a copy only to the Prime Minister, the lawyers said that since this was not a normal inquiry, he had exercised his discretion.

“However, discretion is discretion,” one of them said.

“Although he used the powers given to him by the law, he must now also ensure he acts correctly with everyone.

“It’s not only the Prime Minister who is directly involved. There are other parties that also need to know what has been found or not,” he remarked.

In 2016, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici published the entire inquiry report on the PlusOne club bannister collapse in Paceville and the main conclusions of the magisterial inquiry into the Paqpaqli għall-Istrina car show accident.

The documentation had been passed on to the minister by the Attorney General, who had exercised his discretion.

What the law says

Section 518 of the Criminal Code lays down that: “The acts and documents of the courts of criminal justice shall not be open to inspection, nor shall copies thereof be given, without the special permission of the court, except by or to the Attorney General, by or to the parties concerned or by or to any advocate or legal procurator authorised by such parties…”

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