Delays in Malta’s courts is a major issue plaguing the country and those who are familiar with the growing backlog are pointing to civil appeals in its superior jurisdiction as the cause behind the problem.
Sources well informed of the court’s operations revealed that there were at least 1,473 pending superior civil appeals, some of which have been pending for at least four years.
It presents a stark contrast to other appeals courts. There are 358 civil appeals in its inferior jurisdiction, that’s more than four times less than its superior counterpart. Meanwhile, there are around 14 criminals appeals in superior courts that are pending and a further 700 in criminal appeals in the inferior courts (which mostly deal with trivial cases such as fines).
The issue is nothing new. A 2020 EU study of Malta’s courts found that its delays are some of the longest in Europe.
It takes an average of 2,250 days to resolve a money laundering case, 1,100 days to resolve a civil suit if it goes to appeal, and 1,000 days for administrative matters. In each instance, Malta tops the list by some margin.
Some compilations of evidence in criminal cases take decades, with Lovin Malta recently shedding light on the case of Mason Nehls, the youth who has been waiting 11 years for his case to be heard in court.
Delays can be fatal. Daniel Muka, the main suspect in the murder of Chris Pandolfino and Ivor Maciejowski, was out on bail for the 2017 attempted murder of three police officers and €330,000 jewellery heist because of the backlog in the courts.
Well-informed sources said that the delays should be of no surprise. There have been three separate Chief Justices since 2017. The Chief Justice is meant to look after the section. However, with many changes means that the appointees have not had the time to institute rapid changes.
Some have said that the issues lie elsewhere with several pointing the finger at Judge Tonio Mallia, who looks after civil appeals in the superior courts, as key issue behind the delays.
Mallia was set to retire on 29th November. However, recently proposed changes to the retirement age of members of the judiciary could change all that.
Beyond his role as a Judge, Mallia also sits on the Commission for the Administration of Justice. Many eyebrows were raised when Mallia announced he intended to re-contest for the role in an election earlier this year, given his approaching retirement date.
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