Updated 7.10pm with minister's comments below.
An inquiry tasked with assessing whether any state entity failed femicide victim Bernice Cassar has been concluded and submitted to the government, Times of Malta can reveal.
The report compiled by retired judge Geoffrey Valenzia is currently being analysed, sources said.
Valenzia was tasked with running an independent inquiry into events leading to Cassar's murder by Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and Justice Minister Jonathan Attard, who jointly announced the initiative on the same day that Cassar was murdered.
Camilleri had pledged to make the findings of the inquiry public.
Mother-of-two Bernice Cassar had filed multiple police reports against her ex-husband Roderick before she was shot dead as she drove to work on November 22. Days before she was killed, her lawyer pleaded with police to take action against her ex-huband for breaching a protection order.
He has since been charged with her murder and is denying the charges.
The original deadline for the inquiry was set for December 19. However, the judge had asked for an extension for his investigation to be as “thorough as possible,” Camilleri had told Times of Malta.
The inquiry was intended to examine whether the authorities were or should have been aware that Bernice Cassar’s life was in danger and if there were any failings in implementing domestic violence law.
On the day of the murder, Camilleri had confirmed that the police had investigated reports of alleged domestic violence filed by the victim and pressed charges against the lead suspect in the murder.
However, although a report had first been made in May 2022, the criminal case is not set to be heard in court until November 2023, he said.
What will the inquiry determine?
Valencia was also asked to investigate whether there were systemic inefficiencies but also negligence by the officials responsible.
“If failings are identified the inquiry should list its conclusions and make recommendations for the improvement of the system as well as appropriate actions regarding persons who should answer to failings,” the jointly-sent letter says.
Roderick Cassar was the first person to be charged with femicide following the introduction of the concept into Maltese law, which provides the grounds for a harsher penalty should a murder be gender-based.
The term was introduced into local criminal law earlier last year, as a result of legal amendments sparked by the murder of Paulina Dembska in Sliema in January 2022.
Under the new law, judges are encouraged to dole out harsher sentences for murders committed with "femicidal intent". Defendants in such cases can no longer argue that they committed the crime out of "passion".
Minister cannot say when inquiry findings will be published
Fielding questions by Times of Malta on Monday, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri would not say when the inquiry will be published.
He said the government was taking legal advice and acting cautiously to avoid prejudice in the ongoing court case.
Asked whether he would publish the inquiry report in full, he said the government would "publish all that can be published" and said he remained determined to seek justice and implement the inquiry's recommendations.
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