A ruling by three judges casting a shadow on a court-appointed expert’s integrity has opened a can of worms, since he is involved in a number of court cases.

Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri, Mr Justice Giannino Caruana Demajo and Mr Justice Noel Cuschieri, sitting in the Court of Appeal, last Friday upheld a request by Kurt and Karl Chetcuti Bonavita and David Cassar contesting Martin Bajada’s report as expert on calligraphy after learning that the person had a criminal record involving the falsification of documents.

The judges said it was not only in the interest of those making the claim but also “in the general interest of the administration of justice” that Dr Bajada’s expert report was removed from the records of the case and not given any weight.

“Justice should not only be done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done,” the court said.

The case of Dr Bajada, who is often appointed as a court expert, was highlighted by the Times of Malta last February. Still, members of the judiciary continued to appoint him as expert.

Documents seen by this newspaper and exhibited in court show that, in 1993, Dr Bajada, who recently obtained a warrant to act as a lawyer, had pleaded guilty before the Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court of the UK to 10 counts of theft and was handed a two-year suspended sentence. The court documents show that Dr Bajada, at the time an Air Malta employee, had stolen €59,329.

According to the court documents, Dr Bajada “dishonestly with a view to gain for yourself or another or with intent to cause loss to another did falsify an account made or required for an accounting purpose, namely a quantity of payment authorisation vouchers”.

Dr Bajada was asked whether, despite the criminal record, he was still acting as court expert in a number of cases, but he would not comment. “I am not obliged to reply to your questions,” he said.

Court experts are paid through public funds for their services. Some receive tens of thousands of euros each year for their work.

Members of the judiciary have total discretion on whom they appoint as experts.

Both the Bonello Law Reform Commission and the Chamber of Advocates have called for a revision in the way court experts are appointed.

However, these recommendations have so far fallen on deaf ears.

The Chamber of Advocates even called the system adopted by members of the judiciary a “racket”, adding that what mattered was how friendly experts were with magistrates and police inspectors.

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