Justice junior minister aspires for European standards

Parliamentary Secretary for Justice Owen Bonnici says the Labour government’s vision is deeply rooted in European model.

Owen Bonnici
Owen Bonnici

The justice system needs to reach European standards and the government's decision to appoint a commission to review the justice system was intended to reach such standards at the earliest, parliamentary secretary for Justice Owen Bonnici said.

Speaking during the Parliamentary debate on the 2013 budget, Bonnici reiterated the urgency in reforming the justice system and said the Labour administration "had no other choice but to act immediately."  

"The government's vision on justice is rooted in European ideals, and any society which aspires to have a strong democratic system requires an efficient justice system," Bonnici said stressing the democratic and economic benefits of having a strong judicial system.

The Parliamentary Secretary added that the justice reform should not be implemented simply because it was imposed by the EU, but "because it is the right thing to do."

Bonnici was full of praise for the commission headed by the former European Court of Human Rights Judge Giovanni Bonello and the other members, namely retired judge Philip Sciberras, the Dean of the Faculty of Law Kevin Aquilina and lawyer Ramona Frendo, who endorsed Labour during the electoral campaign.

He also had words of praise for retired judge - Joe Galea Debono - who had immediately responded to the Parliamentary Secretary's request for assistance by promptly providing a number of papers and suggestions on the system.

Avoiding irking the Opposition any further, following the controversial list of government appointments and the President's speech in the Parliament's State opening, Bonnici did not mention the appointment of former Nationalist dissident Franco Debono to Law Commissioner and Constitutional Convention coordinator. .

Bonnici described 2012 as a difficult one for the justice sector, underlining the system's tarnished reputation following the arraignment of a judge on bribery charges.

Citing the damning justice scoreboard published by the EU which pointed out a number of deficiencies in the Maltese justice system, Bonnici said the excessive length of court proceedings would be prioritised.

He added that the introduction of a whistleblower's act and the removal of time-barring on cases of political corruption top the government's list of proposed laws.

Good on Dr. Bonnici for couching the justice reforms in terms of European ideals. As a Member State in a Union founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, Malta should do its utmost to uphold these values, as well the principles of non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men – as enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union. Let us hope that his words have sown the seeds for positive change at the Law Courts.