Weak prosecutions lead to injustice

The prosecution’s role in the justice system is crucial. The country cannot afford to have a weak prosecution. A weak prosecution only benefits the criminals and leads to injustice

The actions of the prosecution, both police and the Attorney General, in a spate of recent cases have been strongly rebuked by the courts.

In some instances, the accused have even been acquitted because wrong charges were filed, such as the case of alleged sanctions busting by Maltese arms dealer James Fenech.

And in one of the strongest rebukes to date, last week a magistrate went as far as accusing the office of the AG of trying to hoodwink the court in the Pilatus Bank money laundering case.

The impasse concerned the summoning of witnesses by the prosecution. “Who are you trying to kid?... You are trying to hoodwink the court! You are an embarrassment to the Office of the Attorney General,” the magistrate hit out at the AG lawyers, warning them that she could find them in contempt.

In another instance, a prosecution bungle saw Christian Borg, who stands accused in a separate case of kidnapping and threatening a man, being acquitted on charges of illegally employing foreign workers.

Just yesterday, the court declared that the arrest of a man accused of drug trafficking was illegal because the accused was not read out his rights and informed as required by law that he was being held under arrest.

These situations concern both the police and the office of the Attorney General, which are tasked with leading the prosecution in the Maltese juridical system.

It is worrying that an important part of the justice system keeps repeating errors that send the wrong signal to the rest of society. It is useless investing so much in prosecuting criminals, only to have the cases thrown out or bogged down as a result of inadequate preparation.

In the best-case scenario, these errors are the result of incompetence or inexperience. In the worst-case scenario, these errors are the result of malice.

There is nothing to suggest the latter, although the manner by which the prosecution has gone out of its way not to charge all high-ranking Pilatus Bank officials does raise serious doubts.

If the repeated mistakes are the result of incompetence or inexperience, the onus lies on the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner to seek answers and address the shortcomings. But this is not just a procedural or administrative affair that can be dealt with internally by the respective institutions.

It is also a political problem, which Justice Minister Jonathan Attard and Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri cannot ignore.

Attard has, for the umpteenth time yesterday, defended the AG’s office despite the string of embarrassing rebukes it has received from members of the judiciary.

The minister cannot be expected to intervene in how the AG office discharges its functions. But he can use his political clout to reflect the concerns of society when criminal cases get bungled in some way or another.

The same holds for Camilleri, who can use his clout as minister to impress on the police the need to ensure prosecutions are done with diligence, apart from efficiency.

There have been too many instances of weak prosecutions to remain silent. There is a very short distance between silence or blind defence and complicity. Society deserves to have its voice expressed in the strongest way possible.

However, government also has the duty to ensure that it provides all the resources possible to ensure the AG and the police force are equipped to carry out their work with efficiency and in depth.

The prosecution must be given all the tools to do their job well. Greater investment in human resources is required. Better pay and better working conditions are crucial to attract talent and retain talent.

The prosecution’s role in the justice system is crucial. The country cannot afford to have a weak prosecution. A weak prosecution only benefits the criminals and leads to injustice.

This country deserves better.