Franco Debono presents in Parliament private members’ motion about Justice and Home Affairs holistic reform

Ten years ago, on November 8, 2011, then Nationalist backbencher Franco Debono, 37 years old at the time, presented in Parliament a private members’ motion about Justice and Home Affairs, which was then discussed in detail in various Parliament sittings. Dr Debono sketched the details of the proposals in three speeches, over six hours, on June 12, 19 and 20, 2012. The motion was seconded by Nationalist MP Joseph Falzon.

The 2013 Giovanni Bonello Report took on board most of the proposals and some of those that had not already been implemented were mentioned by the 2019 Venice Commission in their report. Most proposals have since been implemented or are currently being discussed.

In January 2012, Dr Debono presented a draft Bill on party finance that has also since become law.

Private Members’ Motion number 260 of the Eleventh Legislature – Motion of the Hon Franco Debono About The Justice Sector – November 8, 2011

Since the Chief Justice in the speech at the beginning of the Forensic Year reiterated that the Government might not be giving the appropriate importance to the justice sector in the same manner importance is being given to certain sectors of the economy, and since justice, in a democracy, at all times, should be given the necessary importance, being one of the essential pillars in a democracy;

Since I have been for the last years repeatedly pointing out and highlighting, through Parliament speeches, in the media, and other means, as well as assiduously within internal party structures that in the portfolios of Justice and Home Affairs, which, unlike Malta, in the vast majority of European Union states are two separate and distinct ministries, there is a dire need for extensive reforms, that have a direct bearing as well on the effectiveness of democracy itself and on the fundamental rights and freedoms, and this both in human resources, necessary equipment as well as in certain sectors, in the mentality, attitude and behaviour, thus I make reference to, in particular, but not only, issues regarding:

1. Whilst I acknowledge the extensive improvements in the Police Corps in the last ten years I propose a solution to the issues regarding the setting up of a Police Union as well as the payment of arrears due in overtime to members of the Police Corps, which Police Corps should always be a motivated and energetic;

2. The separation between the investigative and prosecution functions of the Police Corps;

3. Providing forensic technical and scientific equipment, amongst which DNA analysis, in the wider context of a strengthened Forensic Laboratory, (that today is practically inexistent) and which is fundamental for the proper discharge of police functions;

4. The separation between the inquiring and adjudicating functions of Magistrates, and the setting up of a pool of full-time inquiring Magistrates specialising and focusing on criminal inquests;

5. A revision of the eligibility criteria and the method of appointment of experts, as well as introducing the possibility of ex parte experts;

6. The right to legal assistance during interrogation in line with and in full respect of the recent European Court decisions, as well as the rule of disclosure, and other ancillary matters;

7. A revision and re-definition of certain powers of the Attorney General, as well as the obligation to give reasons for his decisions in certain circumstances;

8. A radical reform of criminal procedure, including arraignments and acts of renvoi (rinviji);

9. A revision and reform of the institute of legal aid, so that one ensures that whoever does not have the financial means to engage a private lawyer of his choice has the constitutional right for defence adequately safeguarded;

10. A reform in the Family Court, whereby mediation by means of part-time mediators is re-examined and if need be revised;

11. A revision of the number of years, and the experience required for the appointment of members of the Judiciary, as well as the whole procedure of the appointment, and the retirement age, together with the work conditions of the Judiciary;

12. A thorough examination of the consequences and implications of the last impeachment procedure, the efficacy of this mechanism and the Commission for the Administration of Justice as it presently stands, as an important constitutional check and balance, and if there is any need for revision;

13. That the Act about Restorative Justice is brought into effect without delay, to strengthen also the rights of victims, as well as extensive reforms in different aspects of the Corradino Correctional Facility;

14. That a Drug Court is established, about which discussions have been ongoing for various years;

15. That concrete steps be taken so the document issued by the Chamber of Advocates Regulating the Legal Profession in the 21st century, that should regulate the legal profession, is discussed, analysed and implemented by virtue of a legal instrument;

16. To examine whether time has come for warrants for Security Service interceptions (those regarding ordinary crime and not national security) are removed from the political authority of the Minister and transferred to the investigative or judicial authority;

17. That criminal libel is abolished, as well as a revision of the maximum amount of damages a person who is responsible for libel can be condemned to pay so that it reflects the harm perpetrated, taking into consideration modern means of communication including the internet, and that libel cases should be heard in the Superior Courts presided by a Judge;

18. A revision of the entry requirements of the law course which are presently inadequate, so the level and prestige of the legal profession is safeguarded;

19. A radical revision of the justice system in the juvenile sector;

20. That the library of the Courts of Justice is upgraded and modernised;

21. A consolidation of the Parliamentary Committee for the Codification and Consolidation of Laws and the Law Commission so that the Laws of Malta are further adjourned, recodified and consolidated;

22. A thorough examination of the state of affairs which is developing, including in the Small Claims Tribunal, various tribunals, mediations and arbitrations where in a small country, a substantial amount of litigation is being decided upon by persons who are not members of the judiciary according to the Constitution, but by part-time adjudicators, and in particular the consequences of a recent Constitutional case regarding forced arbitration;

23. The establishment of a third tier of judicial review in the form of a Supreme Court, or on the model of the Court of Cassation in Italy, or another equivalent structure;

24. That the jury system be strengthened.

Since notwithstanding my constant appeals, both internally within the Party, in Parliament, as well as in other fora, including the media, and in these various sectors nothing or nothing much has been done in these sensitive and important sectors, that have a bearing on fundamental rights and freedoms and are at least as important as the economic sectors;

Thus I propose that this House of Representatives discusses these matters and resolves about those measures and steps that should be taken and the manner to be implemented.

Parliament of Malta

Hon Franco Debono

November 8, 2011

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