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Two years later, Grazio Mercieca finally gets his day in court

Had been made magistrate in 2016

File photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

File photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Grazio Mercieca on Friday gave his inaugural speech to a packed courtroom, two years after the Judicial Appointments Committee approved his selection.

In November 2016, he had been sworn in as magistrate.

Read: Newly appointed magistrate had been cleared to become judge

Mr Justice Mercieca on Friday declared that he looked upon his newly assigned role as an opportunity, more than an honour, to serve his country with impartiality, justice and equity.

With only four years to go to retirement age, the judge, formerly a chairman on the Small Claims Tribunal in Gozo, was determined to make expediency in handling his caseload, his primary focus.

“That will be my particular mark,” Mr Justice Mercieca declared, pointing out how during his term as magistrate, in spite of being assigned three districts, collision proceedings and civil lawsuits, as well as a “considerable backlog”, had succeeded in eliminating almost completely all backlog.

“Should I succeed in my plan, I would retire within four years from now with a sense of serenity, well-satisfied of having faithfully served justice.”

In spite of a widespread perception across various cultures, that the administration of justice was failing to meet the needs of the community, Mr Justice Mercieca observed that “delays are not a problem in Malta alone”.

The judicial system needed to strike a balance between the righteousness of judgments, the costs involved, both for the State as well as for the parties in a lawsuit and also the time taken to reach a decision.

Hearings spread out over a number of years were likely to render the whole process less cohesive, making it more difficult for the presiding judge to recall the behaviour of each particular witness when testifying.

Delays could also impinge upon the memory of the witness himself, besides the possibility of there being a change in the presiding judge until the case finally reaches judgment stage.

Delays in court proceedings amounted to a travesty of justice and constituted a breach of the fundamental right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time.

“One goes to Court to correct an injustice and ends up suffering another injustice at the hands of the Court,” Judge Mercieca remarked, adding that such delays also had a negative bearing upon the economy, giving rise to ‘economic distortions’ within the market.

Calling for the implementation of ‘best practices’ to counter the culture endorsing a staggered process, Mr Justice Mercieca sent out a clear warning to all and sundry that he was determined to map out his cases, setting a plan for the number, date and time of sittings as well as a target date for judgment.

He intended to abide by the procedural dictate that “a case is to be adjourned only in exceptional circumstances,” so as to start a new chapter intended to speed up the process of justice in the best interests of the parties and their lawyers.

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