A convenient technicality

I rarely join the chorus of those who are always asking for the resignations of people with whom they disagree, but in this case the Attorney General is so much at fault, that the country has no alternative but to insist for her resignation

Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg
Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg

Last Monday two lawyers were cleared of the charge of attempting to bribe a journalist on a technicality. The magistrate ruled that although the two lawyers had been charged with active bribery and the compilation of evidence concerned that offence, in the note for referral the Attorney General had indicated another provision of the law that concerned passive bribery in the private sector, when the case was one of attempted, active bribery.

Humans are always subject to error. But some mistakes are unpardonable. As Dom Mintoff once said, when he pushed for the ousting of former GWU supremo Joe Attard Kingswell, there are mistakes that cannot be erased by a rubber. Erasing mistakes in this way belongs to the life of schoolchildren and not to real adult life in which the country’s Attorney General has a most important role in our society. 

One must not forget that the current Attorney General was also involved in an agreed plea-bargain in the case of Daren Debono – accused of being involved in the shooting in a burglary attempt at HSBC – who promised to testify against other suspects if the level of charges against him was reduced. He subsequently refused to testify as promised, saying he feared for his son’s safety, with the Attorney General ending up as an idiot that could hardly hide her blushes.

Assuming that the latest blunder by the Attorney General was another naive blunder, there is no doubt that the present incumbent of this very important office in our judicial system is not fit for purpose.

Waiting for the whole process to end, whatever that means, as some have touted, is of no satisfaction to the general public.

Historically, the persons who occupied the post of Attorney General in Malta, more often than not, were among the finest legal minds that had the privilege of serving this country. The two stupid mistakes of the present incumbent is an insult to their memory and to the legal profession in general.

Many suspect that the latest mistake was no mistake at all. There is no proof that the error was made maliciously but the lack of confidence that the general public has in our judicial system leads people to suspect all sorts of backroom deals. As usual, public perception leads to hearsay that adds the imaginary cherry on the cake, whether there is such a cherry or not.

The mistake is serious enough; so much so that even assuming it was done innocently one cannot absolve the Attorney General of its gravity. It is so serious that it has continued to help the erosion of public confidence in our judicial system – something that can only be recovered with the resignation of the Attorney General herself.

I rarely join the chorus of those who are always asking for the resignations of people with whom they disagree, but in this case the Attorney General is so much at fault, that the country has no alternative but to insist for her resignation. Her remaining in office will serve to continue to erode the trust and confidence that the general public should have in the office she occupies and is therefore a dangerous prospect.

It has been said that the legal process has not been exhausted and therefore one should not arrive at premature conclusions. For many, this is lawyer-speak aimed at prolonging the time before the definite decision is taken... or for the whole incident to be forgotten. This may not be the case, but this is what the majority of the public perceives.

An appeal against the sentence will hardly serve any purpose as it is improbable that such an appeal can overturn the Magistrate’s decision, considering the way this decision was delivered.

The Chamber of Advocates has refused to comment on the case, arguing there is an ongoing internal investigation and it would be premature to comment before that is concluded. The investigation, however, regards solely the merits of the case against the two lawyers in question and also involves the possible breach of the advocates’ code of ethics. This is a separate issue from the blatant error in the charge sheet made by the AG’s office.

So who is there to defend the public against this injustice?

Cleaning up the ketchup

A week ago, practically no one – either in the US or in the rest of the universe – knew who Cassidy Hutchinson was.

She was the former White House aide who last Tuesday delivered the most alarming testimony yet about Donald Trump’s behaviour during the attack on the US Capitol in Washington on the 6th January 2021.

Trump’s presidency and its aftermath – his actions in office and his perpetuation of the lie that the 2020 election was rife with fraud and therefore stolen – have left many Americans without the ability to be shocked or surprised, whether through fatigue or mere disinterest. In measured and careful language, Hutchinson has exposed that indifference for what it is.

She explained that she literally cleaned up after Trump by helping a White House valet scrub ketchup off the wall after Trump threw a plate in fury over his attorney general’s conclusion that voter fraud had not caused his election loss.

From her courageous testimony, it was confirmed that Trump knew – or refused to hear – that he did not win in November 2020; that he had directed his loyalists to launch a barrage of schemes to invalidate the vote in several states and had tried to capture the Justice Department as part of his plan to overturn the election. It also resulted that Trump on January 6 aimed a violent crowd at his own vice president and the members of the US Congress, and that he knew that this crowd was armed and dangerous. He even wanted to personally lead the mob to stop Congress from meeting and end the threat to his continued rule as president.

Hutchinson told the House select committee investigating the January 6 incidents: “As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”

Trump dismissed Hutchinson as a ‘phony’ – someone whom he hardly knew, though he has done that frequently with people he knows well but whose words he did not like