Justice Minister Owen Bonnici has welcomed the results of the latest EY Justice Scoreboard published by the European Commission, which shows modest improvements for Malta across a range of judicial issues.

The Commission report, which is based on data from 2014, shows that the length of all court proceedings is now has continued to improve sharply since 2010, although Malta is still ranked among the bottom four countries across the EU.

The biggest improvement was registered in the clearance rate for administrative cases (cases by private citizens against the government or government authorities) where Malta is now ranked third, having had the worst rate anywhere in the EU just one year before.

The Justice Scoreboard also considered the perceived independence of the judiciary, citing figures from the World Economic Forum showing that Malta was ranked 37 worldwide (ninth in Europe) in terms of businesses’ perception of judicial independence, an increase of three places.

The main reason for a perceived lack of independence was interference or pressure from government and politicians, cited by some 20 per cent of respondents both among businesses and the broader public.

Overall, however, less than half of the public believe the independence of the judiciary is “very good” or “fairly good”, although this figure rises to nearly 70 per cent among businesses.

In terms of gender balance in the judiciary, Malta registered the largest increase of female judges in Europe between 2010 and 2014 at every level of the court. The actual proportion of female judges, however, remains below the EU average.

Meanwhile, the country also registered good results in terms of the use of ICT for communication among the courts and practitioners, and as a means of case management.

At a press conference this afternoon, Dr Bonnici highlighted four areas which he said still clearly required improvement, namely Alternative Dispute Resolutions, training for members of the judiciary, better monitoring and evaluation systems, and surveys to gauge the satisfaction of stakeholders.

“The report is a certificate of the turnaround taking place in the justice sector,” the minister said. “We have extricated ourselves from the bottom of the rankings and have begun to climb. The work we have done has started to yield results and we will continue to see results in the years to come.”

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