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86 court judgments removed from public database since 2013

'Right to be forgotten' had been quietly introduced by ministerial decree

Justice Minister Bonnici had made a decision to allow judgements to be removed from public databases. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Justice Minister Bonnici had made a decision to allow judgements to be removed from public databases. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Eighty-six judgments have been removed from the court’s online public database since 2013, it has emerged.

The Times of Malta had reported earlier this year that since taking up office in 2013, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici had privately made the decision to introduce “the right to be forgotten” and which discovered by coincidence during an investigation.

According to data tabled in Parliament this week by Dr Bonnici, in reply to a question by PN MP Jason Azzopardi – since the decision by the minister – there have been a total of 131 requests by individuals who no longer wanted judgments they were involved in to appear online.

Full confidence in the decisions of director general

Of the 131 requests, there were 86 which were anonymised or which were in the process of being anonymised, the minister said, adding that this process involved removing the individual’s personal details.

There were also 41 requests that were denied, while another three were still under consideration. One request was deemed to be “invalid”.

Read: By April 2018, 22 judgments had been removed

According to Dr Bonnici, lawyers would still be able to access the judgments that are removed through the court’s internal database.

The “right to be forgotten” issue first made headlines in March when it emerged that the Justice Ministry had been allowing individuals to request the removal of judgments from the online database.

The information first emerged when the Times of Malta had been reporting the case of two students who were granted a warrant to practise law even though had been found guilty of theft a few years before.

The pair, Yanica Barbara and Thomas Sant, had been conditionally discharged in late 2009 and mid-2010 respectively and while the latter’s judgments could still be retrieved from the database, Ms Barbara’s could not.

When questioned about what the written criteria for the removal were, Dr Bonnici had said that there none because he had full confidence in the decisions of the director general of the courts, Frank Mercieca.

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