A court on Tuesday gave Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers two days to list any additional evidence they want to be included in their bid to have an inspector kicked off their client’s case.
Fenech, who stands accused of complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, wants police inspector Keith Arnaud removed from the case he is leading.
Fenech claims Arnaud was passing information about the investigation to Keith Schembri, the man Fenech alleges was behind Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
The court had adjourned the case last March and set a September 23 date for judgement. But testimony given in the ensuing months in the murder case against Fenech prompted judge Lawrence Mintoff to recall the case three weeks before that date.
Testimony given in other cases was “most relevant” to this one, the judge said, later going on to note that “we are not living in a vacuum”.
On Tuesday, the judge heard Fenech’s lawyers argue that testimony given over summer by doctor Adrian Vella, former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar and others should be included in Fenech’s case to have Arnaud removed.
“How can the court reach a decision without taking note of [these] later developments?” Fenech’s lawyer Marion Camilleri asked.
State Advocate Victoria Buttigieg argued the opposite point, telling the court that this case was focused on Arnaud and that it was “useless to flood the case with irrelevant material”.
Arnaud’s own testimony in the case, Buttigieg argued, included the substance of other testimonies which Fenech’s defence team now wanted to include in the case.
Having heard both sides, judge Mintoff gave Fenech’s lawyers two days to file an application listing the evidence they want to be included in the case, and two further days for the state advocate to respond.
The case will resume on September 9.
As it happened
11.35am And with that, the court concludes the day's hearing, having heard the arguments made by both sides in the case.
A reminder that this is just the first of two court hearings concerning Yorgen Fenech today: this afternoon, magistrate Rachel Montebello is to decide whether or not to uphold his latest request for bail.
The magistrate will also decide what to do with a complaint made by Fenech's lawyers, who say that prosecutors and third parties have access to Fenech's mobile phone, while they do not.
Thank you for having joined us. We'll have a summary of the hearing available at the top of this article soon.
A two-day deadline
11.31am Fenech's lawyers have two days to inform the court what evidence they want to include in these proceedings. The state advocate will have two further days to reply.
Meanwhile, the court will hear the parties on September 9, to map out the way forward.
Fenech's lawyers: 'we were in the dark'
11.27am Fenech's legal team does not let up.
Camilleri: "We had no idea of Adrian Vella's version [of events]. We were completely in the dark before the doctor took the witness stand."
The judge responds: "You could have summoned him as a witness, just as you summoned Keith Schembri".
Camilleri: "We didn’t know his relevance at the time. We were not given statements made by Keith Schembri or the rest. We only heard their versions when they testified in the compilation [of evidence against Fenech].
The judge says he will give the parties time to file a written note about this.
'We are not living in a vacuum'
11.23am Lawyers from both sides argue over evidence presented in the murder case.
Fenech’s side argue that the prosecution is now saying there was evidence which they did not know of [a reference to a series of recordings made by Theuma which were previously not detected].
Buttigieg says the defence team is taking advantage of the situation.
The judge weighs in, and does so by turning to Buttigieg.
“Are you saying that the court should have passed to judgment without taking cognizance of all this?” he asks. “We are not living in a vacuum.”
Buttigieg: "The court had said that it would deliver one final judgment. And the court has all evidence necessary to deliver judgment. All the rest is irrelevant to this issue".
'New developments warrant inclusion'
11.18am Another of Fenech’s lawyers, Marion Camilleri, takes over.
She argues that new developments in the murder case have cast this case in a different light. Camilleri cites Theuma’s self-harm incident, the fact that former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar is now under investigation, and new information about Edwin Brincat (il-Ġojja) and his links to both Cutajar and Theuma.
“How can the court reach a decision without taking note of later developments?” Camilleri asks.
State Advocate pushes back
11.13am Fenech's legal team has made it case for testimonies in other cases to be included in this one. The State Advocate disagrees.
State Advocate Buttigieg: The case at hand focuses on a particular person [Keith Arnaud], she argues. It’s useless to flood the case with irrelevant material.
The doctor’s [Adrian Vella’s] testimony was revealed through Arnaud’s own testimony in the case. The substance of Vella’s testimony is all there, she says.
Buttigieg notes that some evidence in the Fenech's murder case is being given behind closed doors. To introduce it into this case would make it public and be detrimental to the criminal inquiry.
“Besides, the applicant knew of these witnesses and had all the time to summon them,” she adds.
"The applicant had three months to make submissions. They didn't, we did," Buttigieg tells the court.
Fenech wants testimonies included
11.10am Fenech’s lawyer Charles Mercieca speaks.
He says Fenech had filed a request for testimonies heard in other cases to be admitted in this one. But the judge cuts him off and tells him that the request as it was formulated was inadmissible, as it included hearsay.
Mercieca says recordings and the testimony of Adrian Vella should also be given their due weight. So too should Arnaud’s own testimony and that of Keith Schembri, he adds.
The lawyer also tells the court that Fenech’s legal team had not yet filed a note of submissions because of the rapid pace at which things were moving.
“Developments are taking place not month to month, but week after week. We have been unable to conclude the note,” he says.
Why was case recalled?
11.01am It's the question that was being whispered around the law courts this morning - why was the case recalled three weeks ahead of its judgement day?
Judge Mintoff gives two reasons:
1. The man making the accusations, Yorgen Fenech, has failed to submit a note of submissions. Is he still interested in the case, the judge wants to know.
2. Testimony given in other cases "is most relevant in this case", the judge says. The court would like to hear what the parties have to say about this.
[The judge's second point is most likely an allusion to inspector testimony by inspector Kurt Zahra and doctor Adrian Vella in the compilation of evidence against Fenech, which took place over two hearings in the past weeks]
Judge: "Where are we going from here? Is testimony in other proceedings to be admitted here too? We are here to do justice, which is why the court felt the need to recall the case. Do we stick to the original date set for judgement? I'm here to listen".
10.59am Good morning and welcome to this live blog. Fenech's lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Charles Mercieca are here. So too is state advocate Victoria Buttigieg.
Keith Arnaud, the man Fenech wants kicked off the case, is also in court, as is Yorgen Fenech himself, under escort.
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