The Criminal Appeals Court has handed down a definitive ruling on technical objections by the Degiorgio brothers ahead of their trial by jury for killing Daphne Caruana Galizia. Their lawyer had filed over a hundred objections. All of them were rejected by the trial judge. They appealed. Their appeal was turned down in all but one of their arguments.

The one argument they won was that a portion of the evidence given by lead investigator Keith Arnaud that referred to information coming from wiretaps of George Degiorgio’s phone is inadmissible. The Appeals Court agreed with them and the evidence will be struck off and can’t be used at the trial.

This, in itself, is not a major concern for the case against the Degiorgios. There’s more than enough evidence to give prosecutors confidence in their case.

But I think it should set us thinking. The reason why the information from the wiretaps has been deemed inadmissible is that the police were unable to provide evidence that the taps were covered by a warrant according to law.

You could ask whether this was some procedural error that is, frankly, an understandable mistake in the context of the mountain of procedures and evidence that the investigators got right.

You could ask instead whether this should provoke an examination of the way wiretaps are run. Beyond what you may feel about George Degiorgio – I know I’m no fan – the question needs to be asked. Is there a lot of wiretapping going on without a warrant?

Consider another case from a few years ago. The state’s case against a government employee suspected of taking bribes when he was evaluating a government tender collapsed when the court stopped the police from exhibiting wiretaps. Again the argument was that the police were unable to show that the Security Services had acquired a warrant before listening in on calls between the government official and the businessman bribing him.

Two episodes do not a series make. But it’s something to think about.

There’s something else we need to think about. How is the warrant granted? Right now the security services need a warrant signed by either the prime minister or the home affairs minister. That’s to make sure we don’t have a bunch of sheriffs with the power to listen in to your private conversations without some form of oversight.

Whoever wrote that law meant well. They must have imagined that a prime minister or a home minister was never going to have difficulty in deciding whether a suspected organised crime gang or a terrorist cell should have their phones tapped. The assumption, therefore, is that prime ministers are not, as a rule, going to be too close to organised crime gangs and terrorist cells.

It is unsafe to give people so motivated in learning what their rivals or opponents are doing the power to decide who gets listened to and who doesn’t- Manuel Delia

The Joseph Muscat story tells us that even the highest levels of government are not immune from criminal infiltration. Let’s however take stock of the effectiveness of the procedure without necessarily depending for the analy­sis on the worst failure we have ever experienced.

Consider the recent report in this newspaper that said that then Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi refused to authorise wiretapping of John Dalli’s phone when the police were investigating the former EU Commissioner for corruption.

Gonzi said he would, in the right time, explain the reasons for his decision. So I’m not giving an account of his views. I am sharing my assessment of what he might have been thinking.

He would not have wanted to protect Dalli or avoid any criminal action against him. But he would have loathed to give the impression that he was using his powers to bring Dalli down. Dalli would, no doubt, have accused him of that. It is ugly when a politician is seen to use his state powers to bring down a political rival.

However understandable Gonzi’s motivations might be, a possible tool in the arsenal that should be available to law enforcement in the fight against corruption was at the time not made available to them because of the awkwardness it would have caused the prime minister of the time.

This is critical. Wiretapping is vital in fighting organised crime and terrorism, and though hopefully it will always be rare to have people like Chris Cardona or Carmelo Abela in political power, it can be argued that under normal circumstances you can expect prime ministers to be far enough from organised crimi­nals to decide with serenity.

But wiretapping is vital to fight corruption. And, sadly, corruption is where power lies, and every prime minister will, by definition be close to power.

The Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption have argued that wiretapping should be used in Malta to properly combat corruption. It isn’t.

There’s another reason why warranting wiretapping should no longer be in the hands of politicians. It is unsafe to give people so motivated in learning what their rivals or opponents are doing the power to decide who gets listened to and who doesn’t.

A 2014 Daily Mail report comparing Vodafone businesses worldwide found that “some of the most spied on nations in Vodafone’s network include Malta”. If that was 2014 we know it wasn’t out of zeal for fighting crime. It is pointless to hope it wasn’t to fight and crush political opponents.

Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family argued to the inquiry into Daphne’s killing that a reform of our wiretapping rules is overdue. The inquiry agreed. It is yet another note of sadness that the case against her killers gets a hiccup for just that issue.

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