Former Chief Justice Vincent De Gaetano has called out magistrate Joe Mifsud for misquoting a former British judge when delivering justice against two architects for the involuntary murder of Miriam Pace.
When sentencing architects Roderick Camilleri and Anthony Mangion to community service, Mifsud pounced on a quote by former judge Frederick Lawton, which De Gaetano himself had used when delivering a sentence in 2009.
“Society, through the courts, must show its abhorrence of particular types of crime and the only way in which the courts can show this is by the sentences they pass,” the Lawton quote as delivered by Mifsud reads. “The courts do not have to reflect public opinion. On the other hand, they must disregard it. Perhaps the main duty of the court is to lead public opinion.”
However, in a letter to Times of Malta, De Gaetano noted that the third sentence in the Lawton quotation actually reads “on the other hand, they must not disregard it”, giving an entirely different nuance to the sentence.
“This is the third time that Magistrate Mifsud has totally misrepresented Lawton’s words, citing me in the process as the indirect source for that misquotation,” De Gaetano said, citing the magistrate’s judgements against Wayne Caruana and Claus Peter Reisch.
“This mindless cut and paste without bothering to check the original document from which Lawton’s quotation is taken is a disservice to the administration of justice.”
He also warned that this is not the first instance of magistrates misquoting judgements by failing to verify with the original source.
Mifsud’s decision to sentence the architects to community service, rather than prison, was met by a significant public backlash, but Miriam Pace’s family clarified that they never suggested prison time for the architects and were not seeking vendetta.