Gozitan lawyers will return to the Gozo court on Tuesday after Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis promised to tackle their dire working conditions. 

During a meeting he had with the lawyers on Friday, Zammit Lewis and Court Services chief executive Eunice Grech Fiorini gave them assurances that their complaints will be tackled.   

The meeting was held after the lawyers refused to attend court hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, forcing magistrates to either postpone sitting or hear cases without lawyers present.

They are demanding improvements to the environment and facilities of the courthouse, a cramped old building in the Citadel of Victoria.

In a statement, the Justice Ministry said lawyers led by Dr Angele Formosa had agreed to return to work.

"At the end of the meeting,Dr Angele Formosa said that with effect from 8 June, lawyers will continue their legal work in the Gozo Court," it said.

Admin problems

On Monday, a group of 20 lawyers appeared before magistrate Simone Grech to inform the court that until the situation improved, they would not be appearing in court for their cases. Sources said the magistrate is well aware of the dire situation since she had to pause her sittings last week to go to the registry in person and fetch the file for her next case.

They said problems worsened in recent weeks when a number of employees requested a transfer, saying they could no longer work in that environment.

Among other things, the lawyers complained that court summons were not being distributed, they were not being informed of case developments, including applications and replies as well as deferral of cases, and transcripts were not being done in time before sittings, stalling their work.

Case files and documents were being lost in the IT system. Nothing was being scanned and decrees were not being communicated immediately, leaving them and their clients in the dark over proceedings.

Another problem was that deputy registrars could not carry out their work as there was a staff shortage in the court registry. Applications for urgent cases, such as injunctions, were taking too long to reach the magistrates for a preliminary decision.

The lawyers discussed these problems during their meeting with the minister and the CEO on Friday, during which they described the hardships they were facing on a daily basis. They put forward proposals on how they believed the situation could be improved. 

Grech told the lawyers that action was already being taken to address their concerns.

The justice ministry said Zammit Lewis demonstrated the government’s willingness to strengthen the field of justice with a number of initiatives, reforms and investments made in recent months. He also praised the sterling work being done by the three magistrates working in the Gozo court. 

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