The Attorney General has poked holes in the Caruana Galizia family's call for a public inquiry into whether more could have been done to stop the car bomb murder of the journalist.
In a letter to the Caruana Galizia family’s lawyers in London, AG Peter Grech asks them to weigh in on a number of legal arguments surrounding the call for a public inquiry.
Back in August, the family of the slain blogger presented a 24-page legal opinion to the High Commission in London, calling for a full public inquiry into her death last October.
The family’s lawyers have said that if the government refused to open a public inquiry, they would commence legal proceedings in Malta and perhaps ultimately in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Last month Prime Minister Joseph Muscat ruled out a judicial public inquiry into whether Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder could have been avoided.
The family is claiming that unless a public inquiry is held, the Prime Minister would not be fulfilling his obligation under the European Convention of Human Rights.
Asked whether he would consider the family’s request to go beyond the magistrate’s inquiry to a full public inquiry, Dr Muscat has already said that the government believed its obligations were being fulfilled.
In his latest letter, dated October 5, Dr Grech quotes from a legal textbook, Beer on Public Inquiries.
According to the textbook, Dr Grech writes, it is appropriate for criminal investigations to take their course before such public inquiries were held “mostly because the outcome of such criminal investigations can help inform possible public inquiries”.
And later, citing a judgement by the European Court of Human Rights, the Attorney General says that “the ECHR does not require everything to be done at once”.
Dr Grech writes that reasonable phasing is allowed and there can be a number of reasons for deferring the decision on whether a public inquiry should be launched or not.
Another reason for deferral, Dr Grech says, is that even if a public inquiry were held now – it was unlikely that anything would be resolved before the criminal investigation.
It was also pertinent to ask whether there would be any risk of prejudice to criminal investigations and proceedings if an active public inquiry ran in parallel with them, the letter reads.
Dr Grech also writes that, according to the ECHR, it was relevant to ask whether witnesses implicated in allegations would be unlikely to give evidence to a public inquiry unless they were first given immunity from prosecution, which in practice would need to await charging decisions.
The AG invited the lawyers to “point to any authority or example where this course of action [an immediate public inquiry] has been considered necessary”.
In the opening lines of the letter, Dr Grech tells the UK lawyers, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, that the magistrate leading the murder inquiry had unfettered discretion and freedom.
Likewise, the police were free to go wherever the evidence takes them.
The police investigation, he writes, was one of the most resource intensive in the history of Maltese law enforcement.
The AG's letter in full can be read in the pdf link below.
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