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Comprehensive and convincing

Stefani Filletti: Towards a European Criminal Law System
Kite Group, 2017.

Lawyer Stefano Filletti has written a timely book on significant deve­lopments in EU criminal law and their impact on Maltese criminal law. The topic cannot be more pertinent to a study of Maltese criminal law, for it analyses for the first time in a comprehensive manner  EU criminal law’s impact on do­mestic law. Although the unini­tiated reader might be under the impression that EU criminal law is still in its infancy, this book narrates a totally different story.

Filletti’s book has the advantage of being written in an articulated and detailed fashion. It is divided into five chapters and a conclusion.  The chapters address a plurality of matters including: limitations of the application of criminal law by territory – EU substantive criminal law and its implementation in Malta; administrative and investigative aspects of implementing criminal AFSJ (Area of Freedom, Security & Justice)  norms in Malta; difficulties that arise in the execution of investigation measures and sanction from a local perspective; investigating and prosecuting offences: the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, specialised agencies and Malta; and defence rights, human rights issues and their impact on the effective implementation of instruments of mutual recognition in Malta.

In the conclusion, the author lists  matters that require attention both at an EU and Maltese level. He  refers to previous chapters where he had recommended changes to EU and Maltese law, and proposes pertinent changes at both levels. The conclusion is very relevant to law makers, who should embark upon an exercise of incorporating the valid suggestions made into Maltese criminal law. Indeed, it would be a pity if this landmark publication is not given the importance it deserves, bearing in mind that the conclusions are based on a very thorough analytical study of European criminal law and a comparative exercise between EU and Maltese criminal law.

I confess that I am impressed by the logical argument this volume presents. It is clearly argued, well-structured and well-researched. The author has done a great job setting a strong context for his argument. The historical narrative is particularly convincing. He has ably presented a concise analysis of historical facts.

The work benefits from a focus­ed analysis. The research question is clearly set out in the introduction, and the following chapters answer the monograph’s hypothesis in a systematic way. Chapters flow well and they are tightly knit to each other. Filletti can be credi­ted with having identified the most salient points to be discussed in connection with EU criminal law and its impact on Malta. Reference is made to pertinent writings on the subject . The style used is fluent and very comprehensible and the bibliography is impressive.

Although the uninitiated reader might be under the impression that EU criminal law is still in its infancy, this book narrates a totally different story

Without detracting from the previous positive attributes, the volume is laudable in other respects. It represents a significant contribution to knowledge in the field of EU criminal law. It addresses the substantial difficulties the application of the present legal instruments of the AFSJ create in actual practice in relation to proceedings that take place in a Member State.

The work is original in its tho­rough analysis of the problems accompanying the application of EU criminal law in Malta – an EU Member State with a hybrid criminal law system, having its source in the continental Roman-Civil law legal system meshed together with a number of common law principles. As if that amalgam of legal systems was not enough, the Maltese legal system has, since EU accession in 2004, begun to expose itself to the European legal system and, in the instant case, EU criminal law.

Filletti has more than demonstrated his ability to apply research methods appropriate to the subject. He is able to relate effectively to the existing body of knowledge; the amount and range of literature and other sources that he consulted is substantial and more than adequate for the monograph.

As to sources, there are not many authors in this field who – apart from studying the relevant literature and case law – are able to use their professional experience as a defence attorney to present complicated concrete problems from everyday practice. In this respect, it is particularly praiseworthy that the book focuses on human rights issues in connection to defence rights – so far a crucial but mostly neglected aspect of structuring EU criminal law.

In addition, Filletti presents a very detailed, well-referenced pioneering piece of work. The topic constitutes a legal area where not much legal research has been carried out, especially in relation to the Maltese criminal law legal system.

More importantly, it focuses on Malta as a case study and thereby contributes to present a much-needed essential knowledge base for the local legal scenario.

Undoubtedly, the lack of legal research surrounding the topic has presented various challenges to the author. This notwithstanding, he has admirably managed to address the topic coherently and comprehensively in a very fluid and clear style, drawing upon legal practice as well as legal doctrine.

Filletti has made it a point to venture into remarkable practical detail, identified numerable legal issues and critically appraised the developments of European criminal law in a very valid manner. He is, therefore, presenting an oeuvre that is up to the required standard expected from a reputable scholar. He has also regaled us with a monograph where he has chosen Malta, his home country, as the target of a case study for examining the legal difficulties which may arise in implementing EU norms and procedures. This choice is natural, because a legal scientist knows best the legal order of his own country. He mentions his role as a practitioner in Malta and, therefore, he has also personal experiences with the applications of EU-based norms in Malta.

In conclusion, the author’s examination reveals many deficiencies and problems in the EU criminal law corpus and in its national implementation – partly due to Malta’s domestic legal order – as far as the protection of defence rights and, more generally, human rights norms are concerned. His hypothe­sis is to great extent verified by his extensive and critical legal analysis.

In this way, the monograph offers evidence of a significant contribution to knowledge in a particular field of study and of originality.  I congratulate Filletti on the publication of this volume and look forward to reading other future works of his on Maltese criminal law, his area of legal expertise.

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