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EU justice scoreboard strengthens government resolve to introduce reforms

Government says the EU justice scoreboard's negative outlook strengthens its determination to introduce reforms.

Jurgen Balzan
30 March 2013, 12:00am

The negative findings shown by the EU justice scoreboard strengthen the government's resolve to carry out an effective reform in the sector, the government said in a statement issued today.

"The government believes that it no longer has the luxury to choose whether the justice system should be reformed or not. We have no choice other than reforming the system."

The scoreboard issued earlier this week, showed that Malta has a high rate of judges, magistrates, and especially lawyers for its population of 420,000 - well above the EU average - but the court system "is not performing adequately and needs improvement."

READ Study from the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice of the Council of Europe (CEPEJ) prepared for the European Commission: The functioning of judicial systems and the situation of the economy in the European Union Member States 

The government added that the EU scoreboard on justice systems across the 27 member states found that some aspects of the judicial system compares well with other countries, "but the government believes that citizens, democracy and the business sector urgently deserve a better and more efficient system which puts them among the best in the EU."

According to the report, which found a lack of data to compare the justice budgets with the clearance rates of court cases, it looks like the timely and efficient disposition of cases "is more a matter of distribution and efficiency of use and procedural complexity, and less a matter of amount of resources that are allocated."

But the report says that effective mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the efficiency of courts need to be introduced: "Efforts need to be done to increase productivity, including through more active case management... Data collection can be improved in order to better monitor the efficiency of the system, including the monitoring of the number of hearings per category of cases."

The clearance rate of civil cases is worsening, the report finds. In 2010, the clearance rate of 88.1% meant that pending cases were increasing.

In its statement, the government added that in order to advance and create more wealth, the country cannot remain at the bottom of the league in terms of clearing cases.

"In the same manner, the country cannot afford to perform badly in crucial aspects such as data collection on the courts' efficiency and resources allocated," the government said.

It added that the justice reform commission headed by Judge Giovanni Bonello was appointed to review the judicial system and reteriated its commitment to implement the main reforms by the end of the year.

The scoreboard found that Malta has 9.3 full-time professional judges per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to an EU27 average of 18.9. The number of lawyers per 100,000 inhabitants is 287.3, compared to an EU27 average of 160.7, while the ratio of lawyers to full-time professional judges is 30.8, compared to an EU27 average of 16.2.

In 2010, the budget allocated to all courts was 0.39% of general government expenditure, compared to an EU27 average of 0.44%.
Jurgen Balzan joined MaltaToday in 2011, specialising in politics, foreig...
Paul Debono
The number of judges per 100,000 inhabitants does not impress me too much although it is less than one half of the EU average. What I would like to know is the case load of each judge compared to the EU average.