On reputation and the death of a gentle friend

Saviour Balzan on the the death of veteran poverty campaigner Charles Miceli and the controversy surrounding two lawyers who were not disqualified from obtaining a warrant despite having been conditionally discharged for theft int he past

I do now know what to say about the two young law graduates whom I do not know. who nine years ago were conditionally discharged for theft. 

The Chamber of Advocates has reacted strongly stating that this is not on and that the decision by the Chamber of Judges and Magistrates to clear the two candidates was ill-thought.

George Hyzler, talking to MaltaToday, spoke steadfastly against the decision. 

In my words, he said a criminal offence is a criminal offence and they should not have been awarded a warrant.

Now, as this story was unfolding the next chapter was that the details pertaining to this case were deleted from the online registry – a decision taken by the Justice minister.

That is a problem I should think. Why allow one name to be unpublished but not another? This jars even if I understand that the appearance of a name in a court decision does work against one’s career. 

Also, I am not too sure about the statement from the Chamber of Advocates that anyone with a criminal offence should be barred from receiving a warrant. Especially if that offence took place before the persons involved had commenced their course in studying law.  Or at the beginning of their course.

Is it to be taken that anyone who has made a mistake is condemned for life?

I am quite unsure why the fuss. I know so many lawyers who are unfit for their profession and who continue with their work. I could mention a few individuals who have somehow continued to operate in the court of law even though they are well known for their errant ways. 

I can refer to the dozens of lawyers involved in the creation and operation of financial structures specifically created to camouflage revenues and avoid tax­ – their own most of the time. Not tax avoidance but pure tax evasion. And more importantly, legal firms who represent clients who have not correctly gone through any rigorous due diligence. Or lawyers who get involved in business deals, and shaft their clients in the most illegal manner apart from being unethical.

Hyzler talks of the reputation of the profession being shattered by this singular incident. I am hundred per cent certain that the lawyers need not look at Barbara and Sant to worry about their reputation. 

The public at large and every Joe and Jane Bloggs have enough personal evidence to reach their own conclusions on who has ruined and damaged the reputation of this noble and gallant profession.

And what irks me most is that when in the past the University course for entry into the law course suddenly faced a dubious deletion to the entry requirements – no Chamber of Advocates rose to cry wolf.

Perhaps a reminder would be helpful – I am referring to the removal of Maltese as a requirement. A measure that favoured a student that happened to be the grandson of the then Justice minister.

Alas, in that case the reputation of this very noble profession was not shaken or shattered.

It all depends on who is talking and on one’s perspective, I guess.


I remember Charles Miceli from his working days as a journalist at It-Torca in the workers’ memorial building in Valletta when I would visit him back in the eighties and pester him with endless press releases on hunting and environmental issues.

He was in features and avoided the Pravda-like reporting of the time.

In him I found a soulmate who encouraged me to get on with my work and even encouraged me to write in Maltese for the newspaper. I would visit him in the days when the Union Print was like a political club with all those colourful and loud characters from yesteryear.  It was the first newsroom I ever experienced – it would not be the last.

That first small step; writing about the things that still shock me for It-Torca, would push me into the world of journalism.

“Later on when I moved into my first home in Naxxar we shared the same neighbourhood for 30 years. We enjoyed playing chess in the first years and often we met when he went on his own or with his wife Pauline for long walks in Naxxar. 

When he left journalism he nose-dived into social work and worked closely with drug addicts seeking rehabilitation and later on with homeless and poor people. For a short period he carried out social work in Gozo.

Charles Miceli
Charles Miceli

Charles was a self-made crusader for the underprivileged and the poor.  And in recent years he dedicated his energy to politicising his beliefs on the need to stand up for the underprivileged. He was one of the few practising socialists, living and preaching what he believed in.  He was always pensive, somewhat dark and pessimistic and clearly not happy with the way life unravelled around him.  He was well-read and self-absorbed but he had this special and unique trait of laughing at the irrational things in life. He would listen to my ranting and then burst into a giggle and laugh while explaining his point of view.

There was something more than gentle about him. He was a natural, not superficial and idealistic and he simply had a wonderful smile.

Everytime we met in Naxxar we would exchange some angry thoughts, and then he would make it clear that he needed to continue with his walk and head off, head slightly tilted to one side, clearly pondering over the things that mattered most to him: other people’s sufferings.

In later years, he kept a foothold in journalism by writing the satirical column in l-Orrizont under the pseudonym ‘Robert Martyn Gatt’, showing the mischievous and humorous side of Charles.

Death naturally makes us adulate a person’s life, but Charlie, as I would call him, was a rare find, an authentic man in a very fake world dominated by political machinations and self-centredness.