Prime Minister Joseph Muscat started a press conference on Monday morning about the arrest of eight people in connection with the October murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia with a reference to what had happened in 2002, saying he did not want to prejudice any eventual court case.
He was referring to the press conference at the Auberge de Castille called by then Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami.
Ashen-faced and emotional, the Prime Minister had revealed that Chief Justice Noel Arrigo and Judge Patrick Vella were being investigated by police over claims that they accepted thousands of Maltese liri in return for reducing a convicted man’s prison sentence on appeal by four years.
At the time, Dr Fenech Adami said he felt the case was so important that it merited an official reaction.
However, less than three weeks later, the lawyers for the two judges claimed that his statements had touched off a media frenzy and breached their fundamental human right to a fair trial: the legal team put the blame squarely on the Prime Minister, saying the media had taken the cue from the prime minister’s tone, and branded the judges guilty without awaiting the outcome of due process.
On October 30, 2003, the Constitutional Court found that the PM’s words had indeed violated the judges’ right to a fair trial based on the presumption of innocence. However, the Constitutional Court, concluded that since their fundamental human right to trial by an independent and impartial court had not been violated, there was no reason to halt the criminal proceedings
The former judges took their case to the European Court of Human Rights, which eventually unanimously declared the application inadmissible.
The process delayed the court case and it was only in March 2007 that former Judge Patrick Vella was jailed for two years after he pleaded guilty, and in November, 2009, former Chief Justice Noel Arrigo was jailed for two years and nine months.
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