Former Chief Justice and Ombudsman Joseph Said Pullicino has publicly stood by Magistrate Gabriella Vella as she faces criticism from the prime minister and his predecessor as well as other senior Labour Party figures over her handling of the Vitals inquiry.

The magistrate has been criticised for the timing of the submission of the inquiry report and also for not having directly questioned Muscat. Muscat was also critical of social media posts by the magistrate's relatives and had sought her recusal.

Said Pullicino told Times of Malta that he had relayed a message of solidarity and support to Magistrate Gabriella Vella during the "extremely trying and difficult times she has been and still is unjustly passing through".

"I underlined that it is the destiny and duty of judges and magistrates to bear in silence and serenely the grave injustices they are subjected to at the hands of those who should know much better. I stressed that she should find comfort in the conviction that she has performed her arduous task without fear or favour, with commendable courage to the best of her ability.  She has been an example to many while continuing to underscore and strengthen the Courts as the ultimate and strongest bastion of democracy in the country," he wrote.

"It is the Courts that, through their decisions and judgements, guarantee the rule of law and secure justice for all, ensuring that everyone without exception is held accountable for his/her actions. Not through the verdict of any people's tribunal,  even if expressed in a popular vote, however wide the margin," the former chief justice said. 

Said Pullicino had sat on the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and later recounted how he found the experience 'traumatic'.

He wrote later: “I realised that most, if not all, allegations of abuse of power, maladministration and corruption would not have happened had there not been the active or passive connivance if not complicity of public administrators including some heading government ministries and departments as well as public authorities and entities.”  

In a 437-page report, Said Pullicino, retired judge Michael Mallia and Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro concluded that a culture of impunity was created from the highest echelons of power within Castille under former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

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