Welcome, welcome to Malta’s justice system

It is a cruel world, made all the more cruel when justice is not meted out in an efficient manner and more so when it is meted out depending on the whims of those who wield power

“He is young,” she argued.  

Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace decided to award Renald Aquilina, who left Moira Cauchi deprived of a decent life, with a suspended sentence and a ridiculous fine. 

The magistrate chose to look at the age of the man, who drove his Peugeot taxi like a raging mad man, as the deciding factor for her to give him another chance. 

Most fatal or horrific accidents originate from fast and reckless ‘Formula 1’ driving by young men and women; usually in cars that are far too fast and big to handle in our small and busy roads.

Hitting a person on a road is not akin to defamation.  If I decide to accuse a politician of being a simpleton or an egotistic fool, it does not really hurt him or her.  

It only hurts because it is probably true and hits a raw nerve.  If I accuse someone of being corrupt or part of the mafia it does not quite destroy a person’s life or reputation. Perhaps it dents it a little, but it does not send anyone to a mental asylum or force them to carry crutches or ruin their business career or life.

But if you break people’s bones, rupture their nerves, bruise them, cause an amputation, cause permanent brain damage and lame them, it seems has no consequence, based, of course on what we have seen this week.

It was all irrelevant that a life was left shattered by the dangerous driving of 27-year-old Renald Aquilina, who left the courtroom with a three-year driving ban and suspended sentence.

The report of the court case which was factual and without any bias did not go unnoticed.  A member of Renald’s family phoned the newsroom of MaltaToday and it was not a telephone conversation full of praise but one of verbal abuse.  

That is the life of a journalist in a real newsroom.

The young man by the name of Renald Aquilina, from Gzira, caused life-changing injuries to a woman, a bank manager who now suffers from short-term memory loss, unable to read at all, eat, or visit a toilet unassisted.

In 2016 she was unable to testify about the incident. Cauchi's husband told the court of how they were picking up the pieces of a life shattered by Aquilina’s reckless driving.  The former bank manager is now allowed to retain her bank job in a less demanding role but not as a manager.

It was 8:15pm and an eyewitness described how Aquilina drove at a speed which is already past the speed limit in an urban area as he hit the woman at a zebra crossing.  

She was thrown into the air, across a central strip, then hit the ground. The ground being the other side of the Gżira seafront.
These circumstances led Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace to convict Aquilina of causing grievous injuries to the victim but she only handed down a suspended sentence - a one-year prison sentence suspended for four years.

Now those are the facts.  But just imagine, that the person driving the taxi was not young. Perhaps was not as good looking as Renald. 

Or did not have a lawyer with the same artful argumentation as Renald’s lawyer. 

And let us for argument’s sake pretend that the driver was Asian or even worse African or even worse than that an Arab or perhaps and this taking it to the limit when it comes to stereotypes, dark-skinned and a Somali.  Would the courts have decided to dish out a suspended sentence?

Your answer is as good as mine.

Only some weeks ago I was ordered to pay €3,000 by a magistrate and a judge for likening a former inspector to Inspector Clouseau. That was a damning accusation in the eyes of the law.  And incomparable to someone hitting a human being off a zebra crossing.  

I know it now, I should stand a much better chance if I drive my car at 110km an hour, and that is rather fast in an urban area and hit the next person I see hobbling off a zebra crossing.

Even though I know that my chances very much depend on who I happen to be and which magistrate or judge I face.

Which brings me to the latest statistics that show the number of criminal compilations that are still pending.  Over 3,000 dating back to 1990. An amount which is not only shocking but also a reflection of the inefficiency of the Maltese judiciary and courts.  

The blame can be equally apportioned to the politician who has failed over the years to act and change the law to impose timelines; the judiciary who are unwilling to work out of the box or shock the system (with a few exceptions); the legal profession who have regaled in extended cases which bring them more and more dedicated time for their clients and hence legal fees.

It is a cruel world, made all the more cruel when justice is not meted out in an efficient manner and more so when it is meted out depending on the whims of those who wield power.