Court to rule on request to include State as defendant in Caruana Galizia damages claim

"The State has to foot the bill as well." Lawyers for Melvin Theuma have asked a court to make the State a party to a case for damages filed by the family of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia against those responsible for her murder

Melvin Theuma
Melvin Theuma

Lawyers for Melvin Theuma have asked a court to make the State a party to a case for damages filed by the family of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia against those responsible for her murder.

Madam Justice Anna Felice will be issuing a decree on a request in February.

The request by Theuma, the self-confessed middleman in the journalist’s murder in 2017, was not opposed by the other parties.

The case had initially been filed against Yorgen Fenech, who is indicted as the mastermind behind the murder, but was later extended to include Theuma, Vincent Muscat il-Kohhu, who admitted to his involvement in the murder, as well as brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, who are accused of carrying out the murder, Robert Agius tal-Maksar and Jamie Vella who are accused of supplying the bomb to the journalist’s killers.

Melvin Theuma’s lawyers, Kathleen Calleja Grima and Matthew Brincat had filed applications asking that the court include the State amongst the list of defendants to the claim for damages filed by the Caruana Galizia family. This is in the light of the findings of the public inquiry into the murder which had concluded that the State should shoulder responsibility for the murder.

Theuma’s application requested the court to add the Prime Minister, the State Advocate, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police to the list of defendants.

His lawyers submitted that the State had not contested the findings of the public inquiry and had not appealed its contents, arguing that this meant that it should be part of the case.

Calleja Grima argued that law prohibited a person from being awarded damages twice for the same event and therefore, one could not receive damages from one case and then also file for damages against the State.

This was opposed by Caruana Galizia family lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel, who argued that the request would only result in drawing out the case and causing further delays to justice.

“Our case has its premises, we are suing those people who were participants in a premeditated action to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia.” He insisted that the court should be bound by those parameters. “That we admit the Government into this case would mean we are wasting time.”

“By adding another bunch of lawyers we will never arrive at a conclusion,” he said, pointing out that if even one lawyer would be absent from a sitting, the sitting could not be held. 

On her part, Calleja Grima argued that applications were not decided on whether or not cases would be drawn out or because there would be many lawyers in a courtroom. “We are saying that the State has to foot the bill as well.”

In August 2020, the slain journalist’s family had filed civil proceedings seeking the liquidation of damages against those who had a hand in the murder, starting from Yorgen Fenech, George and Alfred Degiorgio, Vincent Muscat and Melvin Theuma.

The case had been filed months before the public inquiry into the murder had published its conclusions.

Following the subsequent arrests of Robert and Adrian Agius, Jamie Vella and their being charged in court, together with George Degiorgio in February, the victim’s family had filed another application last May asking that Agius and Vella be admitted as defendants in the damages claim. 

This request was upheld by madam justice Anna Felice, who is presiding over the case in the First Hall of the Civil Court.

Felice must now decide on whether the Prime Minister, State Advocate, Attorney General and Commissioner of Police should also be made defendants in that case. 

Lawyers Anna Mallia is representing Yorgen Fenech in the proceedings. Lawyer William Cuschieri is appearing for the Degiorgio brothers; lawyer Marc Sant is appearing for Muscat. Lawyer Alfred Abela is appearing for the Agius brothers and Vella.

The case continues in February.