Public record not touched by removal of online judgements - minister

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici.

The removal of some judgements from the publicly-available online list of court judgements still left official records intact, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici has insisted in Parliament. 

He said that in line with the concept of the 'right to be forgotten' he could not ignore the plight of people who complained that despite the passage of time, which would have rendered their conduct sheet clean, their names still continued to pop up in Google searches of court judgements.

Replying to questions by PN MPs Karol Aquilina and Therese Comodini Cachia, Dr Bonnici said a distinction needed to be drawn between the official court record and the version that was uploaded online.

The official court record was different from the copy uploaded on the court website. The official record remained available to officials such as lawyers. 

The Justice Minister last week admitted he authorised the court director-general to remove online sentences upon request by the individuals involved, after consultation with the Commissioner of Data Protection.

The issue cropped up after a judgement finding law student Yanica Barbara guilty of falsifying documents disappeared from the online court database. 

Dr Bonnici told parliament that this was not a case of giving anyone a new right. In terms of the Data Protection Act, anyone responsible for processing data had an obligation to the data subject.

The uploading of 'soft copies' of official court records classified as data processing.

Dr Comodini Cachia countered that the data protection right mentioned by the Justice Minister was not an absolute one.

She said the whole point of the online database was for information to be accessible to the public.

Hitting back, Dr Bonnici said there was a certain element of discretion by the person processing the data, and it was hard to find a balance.

Dr Bonnici said he was open to all suggestions about how to strengthen the existing process at the courts.

He knew of people who had found difficulties because when their name was searched on the internet, a past court judgement would come up.

These people were still suffering, despite having a clean police conduct, Dr Bonnici said.

Dr Bonnici said he wanted to do justice with these people.

In reference to the removal of the law student’s court judgement, Jason Azzopardi (PN) argued that Malta could potentially face a situation where a person who falsified documents was appointed to the Bench.

Dr Bonnici questioned what this argument had to do with the wider issue.

He repeated that the official records of all court judgements would remain in place. 

Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus