A magistrate ruled on Thursday that no contempt of court action ought to be taken against lawyers representing Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family for quoting WhatsApp messages from Yorgen Fenech’s mobile phone during the public inquiry probing whether the assassination could have been prevented. 

Magistrate Rachel Montebello turned down an application filed by the businessman’s lawyers, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri, for the court to order action against the lawyers for quoting from a document the court had ordered to remain secret. 

That data had been covered by a ban issued by the same magistrate following its presentation in court during a sitting on November 30, 2020. 

The magistrate said she had seen the transcripts of the March 5 public inquiry sitting and found that nothing of what had been alleged by the tycoon’s lawyers had actually happened. 

She was ruling on an application filed by the lawyers of Fenech who demanded action against parte civile lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi who read out WhatsApp messages during the public inquiry, in their view in breach of the court order. 

She said that not only had allegations not happened but that "in any case" she had already dealt with alleged breach of court orders in her decree dated March 26.

In her decree, the magistrate, who is presiding over murder proceedings against Fenech, made reference to a previous decree of two weeks ago in which she ordered the police and court registrar to investigate leaks of data from Yorgen Fenech's phone and published on Times of Malta.

The decision was over an application filed by the businessman’s lawyers who demanded measures to stop leaks of data.

The call had been sparked mainly by a series of front-page stories on Times of Malta featuring high-profile public figures, including a member of parliament, and the messages they exchanged with Fenech. 

The latest article was published on March 21, featuring a backpage photo of former MFSA CEO Joseph Cuschieri and Fenech on board the business tycoon’s yacht.

In that ruling, the magistrate directed the police to investigate leaks of data from Yorgen Fenech's phone “if they deem it appropriate". The court also ordered the Court Registrar to institute proceedings for contempt of court against the author of the articles “without delay”.

Magistrate Montebello had said the stories made “clear reference” to messages exchanged between the accused and third parties, contained in data extracted from Fenech’s phone. 

The frequency of the publications in breach of such court order was a matter of “serious concern”, said the court, pointing out that such orders were necessary to safeguard the integrity of evidence in criminal proceedings and the fundamental rights of the accused.

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