The Judicial Year 2016-2017 was formally inaugurated today with lawyers, judges and magistrates first assembling in the Oratory of St John’s Co-Cathedral for Mass which was celebrated by His Grace Archbishop Charles Scicluna. Later, the joint Benches of Judges and Magistrates assembled in the hall of the Criminal Court where the President of the Chamber of Advocates, Dr George Hyzler, and the Chief Justice exchanged views in the customary addresses.
Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri touched upon several developments during the past year and spoke about a number of issues facing the Judiciary.
Among other things, the Chief Justice pointed out that the number of judges in relation to the population in Malta was well below the average in the member States the European Union, and that therefore the possibilities of making adjustments in order to address problems that may arise in the course of time were limited. While the Executive had sought to increase the number of judges and the resources at the disposal of the justice system, these appeared never to be sufficient to keep up with the ever increasing demands being place on the system as a result of new and ever more complex laws, increased rights, more remedies and new specialised tribunals.
He noted in particular that the number of judges could not be increased before more halls were provided. Structural alterations in the courts building in Valletta were being made to carve three extra halls. This is resulting, however, in ever decreasing available space, with the courts edifice tending to become claustrophobic with smaller halls, smaller offices and less space for the public. The time may have come to consider moving the courts to more spacious quarters.
Chief Justice Camilleri referred to the negative consequences that arise from resorting too readily to amnesties in order to regularise infringements of the law. He said that this practice is producing a sense of aggravation and injustice among law-abiding citizens, who consider that those in breach of the law end up by being rewarded, whereas they have to go through time consuming procedures and much inconvenience in order to comply with their legal obligations. Such amnesties also tend to de-legitimise the courts in the eyes of the law-abiding public because the law is no longer being applied equally to all. He emphasised that this is not very consistent with a State founded on the Rule of Law.
The full text (in Maltese) of the Chief Justice's speech can be found here.