Medical practitioner and Nationalist MP Stephen Spiteri has filed constitutional proceedings claiming that his rights were breached when the Medical Council acted as judge and jury upon allegations made in his regard.
The doctor landed under investigation by the council following a story published by Lovin Malta back in 2017, when it was alleged that Spiteri was issuing medical certificates without actually examining the patients.
In December 2017, Spiteri was asked to forward an explanation to the council about the allegations.
He submitted an explanation that same December, but no feedback was forthcoming until October 2018, when the doctor was summoned to appear before the medical board to answer charges issued against him by the council.
Spiteri’s lawyers raised two preliminary pleas, arguing that the action was time-barred and also pointing out that the council’s functions of investigating, prosecuting, summoning witnesses and ultimately pronouncing a decision, were in breach of the doctor’s right to a fair hearing.
It was clear from the start that the procedure before the board was neither independent nor impartial, with the council’s legal advisor replying to the doctor’s submissions and the complainant, testifying at the hearing and being consulted about what evidence should be brought forward.
Despite being told that Spiteri intended to take his grievances before the constitutional courts, the proceedings continued, in “a shameless and totally imprudent manner,” said the application, filed before the First Hall, Civil Court on Tuesday against the Maltese Medical Council and the State Advocate.
In its preliminary decision delivered in February, the council’s board had declared that “the validity or otherwise of the laws [governing the medical council] could be contested before the appropriate forum.”
But since no constitutional case had yet been filed and no order delivered to stop the proceedings, then the board had to do its job, the board had declared.
Spiteri’s lawyers pointed out further that similar procedures adopted by the pharmacy board had been successfully challenged on a constitutional basis in 2003 in a case identical to the applicant’s case.
Given that members of the medical council and sub-committee, tasked with investigating the allegations against Spiteri, lacked security of tenure, they could not guarantee a fair and impartial hearing.
Nonetheless, the council had the legal power to sanction the doctor, impose penalties and possibly even suspend his licence, stopping him from exercising his profession.
The applicant was also suffering an irremediable prejudice, further aggravated by the fact that stories linked to the allegations were being published while this case was still being heard.
In light of such considerations, Spiteri had no option but to seek a constitutional remedy, requesting the court to declare that his rights had been breached and to annul proceedings in his regards.
Lawyers Duncan Borg Myatt and Victor Scerri signed the application.