Prison director Alex Dalli should be suspended pending an independent inquiry into his “abusive treatment” of Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer, the Chamber of Advocates has said.
Lawyer Charles Mercieca filed a court complaint after Dalli stopped him from presenting documents to Fenech during a recent meeting at the prison.
Mercieca said he told Dalli that he had every right to discuss the case with his client, but the prison director swore at him, banged on his desk and told him he “doesn’t give a fuck” (għala żobbi) about the court.
“I don’t give a fuck about the court. I own this place, I take decisions around here, and everyone has to obey me,” Dalli allegedly said.
The Chamber of Advocates said it’s unacceptable for a public officer to act as though he’s above the law and to swear and shout at lawyers, all while in the presence of underling officers “in a show of force”.
“It is clear that the prison director’s behaviour constitutes shameful conduct by a public officer against a lawyer who was carrying out his duties,” it said. “At worst, it’s a clear and blatant obstruction into the administration of justice by a court official and an abuse of power intended to intimidate a lawyer.”
They added that Mercieca’s warning is backed up by CCTV footage at the prison.
“The Chamber of Advocates strongly objects to and unreservedly condemns the way the prison director and the officers who accompanied him intimidated the lawyer concerned.”
“We call for the prison director to shoulder responsibility for his conduct and, failing that, for his suspension pending an independent inquiry into the incident.”
“Access to a defence lawyer is a fundamental human right that should be safeguarded and protected, particularly by public institutions. Lawyers who enter prison should be treated with the decency and courtesy they deserve, without fear or intimidation on the part of the prison authorities.”