Shadow Health Minister Stephen Spiteri and his lawyers are claiming the procedures of the Medical Council are breaching Dr Spiteri’s fundamental human rights, and are unconstitutional.
Dr Spiteri pleaded not guilty during his first Medical Council hearing after being accused of giving out medical certificates for €5 each without actually seeing patients at a Kalkara pharmacy.
Without addressing the allegations directly, Dr Spiteri’s lawyers argued that their client’s human rights were being breached by the Medical Council’s inquiry, and that the inquiry itself was unconstitutional.
They said that an entity cannot “conduct an investigation, accuse an individual, and act as jury”, as the lawyers claimed the Council was doing.
“This is not a fair hearing,” said lawyer Victor Scerri, of Scerri & Bonello Advocates, on behalf of Dr Spiteri. “The Maltese Constitutional Court has shown that the same entity cannot investigate and act as jury, and in this case it’s even worse – there is no form for recourse.”
Dr Spiteri, who is the PN’s Shadow Minister for Health, did not speak much during the inquiry into his conduct
The Medical Council said that it had not yet conducted an investigation itself, and had called the inquiry after Lovin Malta’s report had entered the public sphere. It continued by saying that if they as the Medical Council were to conduct an investigation, it would be starting from today onwards, and not prior to the council’s first hearing.
“The Medical Council felt the need to start proceedings after the information became public,” said lawyer Matthew Paris, of DalliParis Advocates, on behalf of the Medical Council, and reiterated that the Council was following all procedures on the matter.
Dr Spiteri’s lawyers responded that in doing so, the Council were breaching their client’s rights. “God forbid that to not breach the procedures of an entity like the Council we need to breach the rights of a citizen – not a doctor, but a citizen.”
Dr Scerri also pointed out that the inquiry had been started following the complaint of “one individual, a journalist”.
Dr Stephen Spiteri
The Medical Council offered methods of recourse to address their complaints
Dr Paris said that the Council regularly acts upon reports or individuals’ complaints, and reminded the lawyers that the Medical Council was not a court. He explained how the lawyers would indeed be able to find a way towards recourse if they felt that their clients rights had been breached.
“This is not a court, and it is definitely not a Constitutional Court, but if you feel that there has been a breach of Dr Spiteri’s rights, it can be addressed in the correct manner,” said Dr Paris, before inviting the lawyers to submit a written complaint to another forum before their next sitting.
While the lawyers accepted this, they said that the Council moving forward on the complaint was “unacceptable”, and said they disagreed with the proceedings, saying: “the procedures have been vitiated from the beginning.”
“The Medical Council can’t ignore what the Constitution or European conventions say. It is unacceptable that the Council keeps moving forward after we have informed them of our complaints,” Dr Spiteri’s lawyers said.
The lawyers were invited to submit their complaint by the 2nd of November, and the next hearing in the inquiry was set for the 3rd of December.
Two members of the council abstained from the meeting, citing conflicts of interest.
The formal inquiry by the Medical Council was started after Lovin Malta released a recording of Dr Spiteri’s receptionist laying out in detail how Dr Spiteri’s alleged racket worked.