Courts are powerless if the police, AG, fail to act - Chief Justice

The rule of law must be enforced, without distinction

Updated 3.15pm with Chamber president's speech

The rule of law could not prevail unless the laws were fair and enforced without fear or favour, the Chief Justicesaid this morning.

Silvio Camilleri called for the rule of law to be safeguarded and enforced, stressing that it is the cornerstone of democracy.

Speaking at the opening of the forensic year, Mr Justice Camilleri said nothing was more central and essential than the rule of law, applied to all.

“The rule of law cannot rule if the laws are not applied and enforced.

The laws need to be enforced by the authorities empowered to do so

“The laws need to be enforced by the authorities empowered to do so,” he said, referring to the police, the Attorney General, and the courts.

“If the persons in these authorities do not do their duties impartially and independently, the rule of law will be undermined,” he said.

The police were duty bound to investigate crime, collect evidence and arraign the suspects before the judicial authorities, he said.

Unless this was done, the judicial process could not even start.

The Attorney General was then tasked with prosecuting the suspects produced by the police. But if the police failed to investigate and collect evidence, the Attorney General could not proceed.

In certain serious cases, the Attorney General had some investigative powers, and where the police failed, responsibility shifted to him, but again, if no action was taken, the judicial process could not start.

Investigations, the chief justice pointed out, were not only carried out to establish who would have committed a crime, but also to exonerate others over whom a shadow would have been cast.

The courts, he said, were the last bulwark for the protection of the rule of law, but if the authorities who could take the initiative remain inert, the courts could never exercise their duties and would be unable to enforce the law.

Every system ultimately depends on the persons entrusted with its functioning

“Every system ultimately depends on the persons entrusted with its functioning. Should they fail, we would have just a façade, a façade of distraction and alienation without substance,” the chief justice said.

He stressed that in the rule of law, it was also important to have the imposition of punishment on all those who broke the law.

“Should there be punishment for some but not for others, the courts would no longer be the administrators of justice, but become the administrators of injustice,” he said.

Much progress had been made by Maltese society to advance equality in its various sectors. But the equality of all before the law was of primary and essential importance. Without this equality, there simply was no democracy.

Constitutional changes to appoint judiciary 'not enough'

Chamber of Advocates president George Hyzler pointed out that constitutional changes to the appointment of members of the judiciary were not enough since the responsibility for such appointments ultimately lay in the hands of the government.

The current system whereby the assessing committee lacks the power of overseeing the decision taken at ministerial level, discouraged potential candidates, he said.

Moreover, Dr Hyzler pointed out that the committee regulating the legal profession, part of the Commission for the Administration of Justice, lacked basic resources.

Dr Hyzler lashed out at the legislator's continued failure to implement a law regulating the legal profession.

“It is inconceivable that all lawyers are not members of their respective bar as in the rest of Europe and in all advanced nations.”

Read the addresses in full on pdf below.


Attached files

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