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Columnist accuses magistrate of cavorting with policeman and chatting with defence

Columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia (file photo).

Columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia (file photo).

Columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia defended herself in a libel case yesterday by launching an attack on the credibility and behaviour of Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera.

She criticised the decision of Dr Scerri Herrera to give interviews to the media and pose for magazines and even model diamond jewellery on a catwalk when the code of ethics for the judiciary clearly prohibited such behaviour.

Ms Caruana Galizia was testifying in the criminal libel case instituted against her by the police on an official complaint by the magistrate following a series of blog posts that began on January 29 last year.

The columnist said she had wanted to write about the magistrate for a long time and refrained from doing so because she had two libel cases before her but the situation had been “getting out of hand”.

Any journalist that wrote about a member of the judiciary could not expect a fair trial as she had personally found out when (disgraced former Chief Justice) Noel Arrigo was still a judge, she said.

She explained that the judge had been a character witness in the drug trial of Godfrey Ellul and she had written an article about this fact. Dr Arrigo then took the first chance he had to seek revenge and fined her €2,300 in a libel case, which decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

The magistrate was more of a party promoter than a member of the judiciary, Ms Caruana Galizia said, adding that although the magistrate claimed she organised parties for charity, she was in fact using that to get publicity.

She said that although she had mentioned drugs in her blog posts about the magistrate, she knew Dr Scerri Herrera did not take drugs or was involved in trafficking but the references to drugs were directed at the people she had invited to her parties. Furthermore, by inviting all sorts to her parties, the magistrate was putting herself in a dangerous position.

The columnist referred to a particular expression she used in a blog post which stated that talcum powder had been thrown around at the magistrate’s parties and that the magistrate used deodorant. She said that “talcum powder on the dance floor” was a phrase and that deodorant was what is known as a throw-away line. Talcum powder was not a euphemism for cocaine, she added.

When Dr Scerri Herrera began living with her partner, Robert Musumeci, she began dabbling heavily in politics and even at her 45th birthday party there were politicians. In particular, there were Nationalist MPs Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Jesmond Mugliett and Robert Arrigo, who all had one thing in common and that was causing problems for the government, she said.

Magistrates should not get involved in politics and that was fundamental, Ms Caruana Galizia added.

Even the magistrate’s father used to get involved in politics and that is how she knew Ronnie Pellegrini because he was a henchman of the late Lorry Sant (a former Labour minister). The magistrate should be ashamed of being Facebook friends with someone like Mr Pellegrini who is “trash” of the 1980s, Ms Caruana Galizia said, exclaiming “mamma mia”.

At a surprise birthday party organised by the magistrate’s husband for his wife at Chez Philippe restaurant, Ms Caruana Galizia said she was seated next to Mr Justice Carmelo Farrugia Sacco whom she found to be unsavoury. At one point she said she got up to use the toilet and found two of the party guests using drugs in the toilet and she left immediately.

Ms Caruana Galizia accused the Magistrate Scerri Herrera of colluding with Police Superintendent Dominic Micallef, with whom she had an extra marital affair for five years, by trying to hide love letters.

She said the magistrate had received the letters from the officer and Dr Scerri Herrera hid them from her husband and gave them to a friend. The reason the magistrate had taken so long to respond to the allegations made in the blog was because she was trying to get her hands on the letters to make sure they were not leaked.

Officers had been sent to Ms Caruana Galizia’s house to make sure she turned up for interrogation regarding this case. The columnist believed such a move by the police was the result of collusion between the magistrate and the officer in question.

“The magistrate first cavorts with policemen and the prosecution and then chats on Facebook with defence lawyers, organises parties and invites everyone and when she is done, she goes to sleep with the court expert” she added.

The columnist said she noticed a pattern in the judgments handed down by Dr Scerri Herrera. Running a search on the internet and coming up with random court reports, she said she noticed that in all the cases where her brother or his law firm were involved as defence lawyers, the accused got off with suspended jail terms or probation and only one case resulted in a jail term.

Under cross examination by lawyer Steve Tonna Lowell, Ms Caruana Galizia said she did not verify the actual judgments reported by the newspapers. Pressed further she said she did not have to verify and refer to other similar judgements handed down by other magistrates because the point was that Dr Scerri Herrera’s brother was involved.

Dr Tonna Lowell argued that the only reason why Ms Caruana Galizia had written the blog posts about the magistrate was revenge for something that was said at a private dinner party at the magistrate’s house.

In response, Ms Caruana Galizia said a person attending that dinner, Rachael Attard, had called her from the toilet of the magistrate’s house to inform her how shocked she was at the magistrate revealing that a story about her would be published the next day in the newspaper MaltaToday.

The case continues.

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