A court, presiding over murder proceedings against Yorgen Fenech, has directed the police to investigate leaks of data from Yorgen Fenech's phone “if they deem it appropriate".

The court also ordered the Court Registrar to institute proceedings for contempt of court against the author of the articles “without delay”.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello was responding to a call by the lawyers of the businessman accused of complicity in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. They are calling for “urgent” measures to stop leaks of data.

The pronouncement was sparked by a fresh request by Fenech’s lawyers last week following a series of front-page articles published by Times of Malta featuring high profile public figures and messages they allegedly exchanged with the business tycoon. 

The lawyers had called upon the court to provide “urgent” remedies to block such leaks which could prejudice such a “sensitive case”.

In reply to that call, Magistrate Montebello said the stories made “clear reference” to messages exchanged between the accused and third parties, contained in data extracted from Fenech’s phone. 

That data had been covered by a ban issued by the same magistrate following its presentation in court during a sitting on November 30, 2020. 

The frequency of the publications in breach of such court order was a matter of “serious concern”, said the court, pointing out that such orders were necessary to safeguard the integrity of evidence in criminal proceedings and the fundamental rights of the accused. 

In a democratic society, this was necessary to protect the interests of justice, beyond other rights, including freedom of expression, observed Magistrate Montebello. 

Such data, pertaining exclusively to these criminal proceedings and containing private messages exchanged between the accused and third parties, could “undoubtedly” prejudice proceedings in his regard. 

It was the court’s duty to ensure that this does not happen and that any breach of its “legitimate orders” is handled as an act of contempt in its regard in terms of law. 

Consequently, the court ordered notice of its decree be served upon the Police Commissioner to investigate, if he should deem it opportune, such leaks to determine who had access to such data and who could have made it accessible to third parties. 

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