Judge claps back at AG and police claim he ‘breached Constitution’ by ordering them to testify

Judge says Attorney General did not put forward any new argument to make court change opinion expressed in its decree this morning ordering AG and police inspector to testify tomorrow on Pilatus Bank nolle prosequi

Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg
Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg

A judge has refuted accusations made by the Attorney General and a police inspector that his decree refusing their requests to be allowed not to testify about the Pilatus Bank nolle prosequi “breached the Constitution.”

Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg and Police Inspector Pauline D’Amato from the Financial Crimes Investigation Department had asked the court not to compel the inspector to testify in a case over the failure to prosecute senior officials at Pilatus Bank.

But despite the court rejecting their requests, after Mr Justice Christian Falzon Scerri handed down the decree this morning, Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg and Inspector Pauline D’Amato filed further applications, accusing the judge of breaching the Constitution, amongst other things.

“It does not appear to the court that the decree it gave this morning broke any law, much less the Constitution,” decreed the judge this afternoon. “With this morning’s decree, the court is simply carrying out its duties… Above all, it was the legislator’s choice to introduce the right to judicial review of the Attorney General’s decisions into the Maltese legal system,” decreed the judge.

Falzon Scerri also pointed out that the Attorney General had not put forward any new argument that would make the court change the opinion expressed in its decree this morning.

Amongst her arguments, it appears that the Attorney General had claimed that rule of law NGO Repubblika was “using the case to carry out a fishing expedition.”

The judge replied that he had “nothing to say about this, except to point out that what Repubblika was requesting till now fell within the parameters [of judicial review]. Now whether they are right or not, is yet to be seen in the final judgment.”

The judge also clapped back at the constitutional issues raised by the AG, saying that the court felt that its decision had not breached any disposition of either the Constitution or the European Convention on Human Rights.

“But beyond this point, the Attorney General cannot invoke a breach of fundamental human rights because these rights are not reserved for government entities,” remarked the judge, citing case law.

“Insofar as where the Attorney General is claiming that if she testifies this could breach the right to presumption of innocence, the Attorney General can be reassured that this is not the case because the protection of the presumption of innocence does not bind those who, by law, such as the police and the Attorney General, have the power to charge persons with crimes.”

The judge dismissed both requests and confirmed that tomorrow’s sitting will take place.